Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Syrian protesters torch offices

An anti-Syrian government protester displays Arabic words on his hands, reading 'Yes for freedom, no to violence' (AP)
A demonstrator in favour of Syrian president Bashar Assad (AP)

Protesters against the government of Syria set fire to offices of the ruling party while hundreds of political prisoners were released in a bid to appease the rioters.

Presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban told reporters that demonstrators attacked a police station and offices of the Baath party in the town of Tafas, six miles north of the city of Deraa , epicentre of more than a week of anti-government protests.

The Baath party offices in the Mediterranean city of Latakia had also been targeted.

President Bashar Assad pulled back police and soldiers from Deraa and released hundreds of political prisoners in an attempt to appease demonstrators furious about the violent government crackdown on dissent.

Deraa has been the centre of protests, with more than a week of demonstrations leading to nationwide unrest on Friday when tens of thousands of protesters marched in cities across the country.

Abdul-Karim Rihawi, who heads the Syrian Human Rights League, said that 260 political prisoners had been released.

He said that most of those released were Islamists and 14 Kurdish detainees were also let free. Most had been imprisoned at Saidnaya, a prison in a Damascus suburb that houses political detainees. He said no further details were immediately available and there was no official confirmation.

Mr Rihawi called the move a "positive step" and urged authorities to release all political detainees.

Britain has condemned the violence in Syria with Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt saying that he was "deeply concerned" by the use of force in Deraa.

He said in a statement: "I have been watching closely the situation in Syria, and am deeply concerned by the use of force against demonstrators. I condemn the violence that has resulted in a large number of deaths in Deraa. All Syrians have a right to express their views peacefully."

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