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Syria frees women after hostage deal

Nine Lebanese Shia hostages held for 17 months by a rebel group in northern Syria were exchanged on Saturday for two Turkish pilots held in Lebanon since August.

The release of scores of female detainees held in government jails formed part of the deal arranged by Turkey, Qatar and Lebanon.

“Fourteen of the women whose names were on the list” were freed late on Tuesday, activist Sema Nassar told AFP news agency.

“For their own safety, they will have to leave the country.”

Among them was a cancer patient who had been imprisoned twice before and whose husband has been killed in Syria’s 31-month-old conflict, said Nassar.

“Another 128 women whose names were on the list have yet to be set free,” she said.

Other activists told Al Jazeera that only 13 female prisoners were released from Adra prison in Damascus province, but it was unclear whether their release was related to the exchange deal.

There has been no official comment in Damascus on the women detainees.

Tens of thousands of people are being detained by the Syrian regime, many of them without trial, activists say. Rights groups say torture and ill-treatment are systematic in Syria’s jails.

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