Syria's government is releasing 2,130 mostly Syrian prisoners in exchange for 48 Iranians whom rebels released earlier.
The Iranians, held captive by rebels since August on suspicion of supporting government forces, were released in the Damascus suburb of Douma Wednesday and bused to the Sheraton Hotel in the capital, where Iran embassy officials fetched them. All well and unhurt, they will be flown back to Iran.
The Syrian and Turkish captives released by the government were bused Wednesday from different prisons to the Palace of Justice, where a judge signed their release papers, according to Louay Moqdad, spokesman of the Free Syrian Army.
The prisoners, who included dozens of women and children, were being processed for release until Thursday, Washington Post quoted opposition activist Susan Ahmad as saying via Skype from Damascus.
The Turkish charity organization Humanitarian Relief Foundation is handling the prisoners swap, which it has been negotiating for the past three months.
Moqdad hailed the release of 2,130 Syrian and Turkish prisoners as a victory for the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad for nearly two years now. He said the regime's choice of getting the Iranians instead of Syrian soldiers held captive by rebels indicated that Damascus is getting command from Tehran.
Tehran denied accusations by rebels that the Iranians were supporting Syria's army in the war against rebels. It claimed that the Iranians were pilgrims to a Shiite shrine when they were seized by rebels in August.
The Obama administration is rejecting a new proposal from Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the fighting in his country, who refuses to step down. Elizabeth Palmer reports
Assad refuses to step down, U.S. rejects proposal
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