Syria releases 169 prisoners in exchange for Russian bodies
The Syrian government released 134 prisoners on Tuesday, with the promise of an additional 35, in exchange for the five dead bodies of a Russian helicopter crew.
In total, 50 prisoners were released from Adra prison, in the outskirts of Damascus and 84 more were released from Hama prison.
"Another 31 inmates at Homs prison were also informed that they are going to be let go but they still haven't been released. Four others held elsewhere should also be released," Michel Chammas, a lawyer representing many of the prisoners released, told AFP.
Chammas, who works out of Germany, said the the prisoners were being released in exchange for the return of the bodies of five dead Russian soldiers, currently being held by rebels.
A Russian Mi-8 helicopter, carrying two officers and three crew was shot down in Idlib province, following a mission in Aleppo. According to the BBC, at that time the area was in the control of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – the group previously known as al-Nusra.
Chammas declined to comment on the name of the rebel groups involved in the deal with the Syrian government, but AFP report they were paid a "commission" for organising the deal.
Ahmad Qarra Ali, a member of the Ahrar al-Sham group, a coalition of Islamist fighters said: "The bodies of the Russian pilots are in the hands of the Army of Conquest [Jaish al-Fateh]", referring to a rebel group active in the Idlib region.
"We take care of our prisoners and the remains of our enemies because that is the only way to secure the release of our men, women and children who are prisoners of the regime," Ali told AFP.