June 25 (UPI) — The Syrian government announced it released 672 detainees from prison Saturday, one day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Most of the detainees — 588 — came from the Damascus Central Prison, while the rest came from multiple provinces across the country, Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported.
Justice Minister Hisham Mohammad al-Shaar said “this initiative seeks to enhance local reconciliations and allowing those were misled to return to their normal lives, hoping that others who were led astray would return to their senses.”
The detainees were required to pledge “not to carry out any act that undermines the safety of the homeland,” China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Officials gathered the detainees at the Baath Party branch in Damascus, where al-Shaar met with them before they were released.
The released detainees had spent between a few months and more than three years in prison.
The Syrian government typically releases detainees ahead of Eid, the celebration at the culmination of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Opposition groups have called on the government to release the tens of thousands of people it has detained since the beginning of the six-year civil war in the country.
In February, Amnesty International issued a report saying the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has executed groups of about 50 prisoners at a time in one jail on at least a weekly basis for about five years. Up to 13,000 people died from 2011 to 2015.
“The horrors depicted in this report reveal a hidden, monstrous campaign, authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government, aimed at crushing any form of dissent within the Syrian population,” Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International’s regional office in Beirut, said in a press release.