Syria Frees Hundreds of Prisoners, Continues Deadly Crackdown

Posted December 1st, 2011 at 7:20 am (UTC-5)
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An Arab League committee charged with implementing sanctions against Syria is going after the country's rich and powerful.

The committee Thursday released a list of 17 Syrians banned from traveling to Arab states, including the brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the country's richest businessman and top Cabinet ministers.

Officials say the list and other recommendations will be presented to Arab League members set to meet in Doha on Sunday.

The Arab League has been trying to convince the Syrian government to ease its crackdown on anti-government protesters and has even suspended Syria's membership while warning of new sanctions.

Syria released 912 prisoners Wednesday, saying those released were not linked to what the government described as “murders” connected with the uprising.

Also Wednesday, activists said new clashes in the flashpoint Daraa province killed at least six civilians and seven Syrian troops Wednesday as security forces pushed into the area.

The head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA that fighting erupted in the town of Dael and that witnesses heard a loud explosion as army vehicles were blown up.

The latest violence came as Syria faced a barrage of new international sanctions.

Turkey suspended all financial credit dealings with Damascus Wednesday and froze its government's assets. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the measures include cutting off links with Syria's central bank, banning the delivery of weapons to the country and suspending the bilateral strategic cooperation agreement.

The world's largest Islamic body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, on Wednesday urged Syria to cooperate with the Arab League and allow a team of observers access to the country. It also called on Syrian authorities to immediately stop the use of excessive force against its citizens.

Syria has refused to end the crackdown, calling it a necessary response to attacks by “armed terrorists” on civilians and security personnel.

The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold an urgent meeting in Geneva Friday to discuss the situation in Syria. The U.N. says violence related to the uprising has killed at least 3,500 people, mostly civilians.