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NOW

Lebanese political prisoners
reportedly freed in Palmyra

MTV reported that 27 Lebanese nationals were released from Tadmor Prison.

ISIS in Tadmor Prison.
ISIS seized Palmyra late Wednesday. (AFP)

BEIRUT – Lebanese nationals arrested by Syria during the Lebanese Civil War and imprisoned in Palmyra’s infamous prison have reportedly been freed amid ISIS’ takeover of the historic heritage city.

 

Lebanon’s MTV reported Thursday morning, hours after the fall of the city, that 27 Lebanese had been freed from the facility, known commonly as Tadmor Prison after the Arabic name for the ancient town.

 

The station told NOW that sources claimed five Lebanese Christians were among the men who had been in Syrian jail for as long as 35 years.

 

However, Wadad Halwani—the head of the NGO Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile—told LBC that reports of Lebanese being released from the prison remain unconfirmed.  

 

Syria is believed to have “forcibly disappeared” over 600 Lebanese men during the country’s 1975-1990 Civil War and the years of Syrian political hegemony afterward, jailing them in Tadmor Prison as well other facilities in the country.

 

Activist groups working in past years for the release of the detainees have drawn up a list of over 200 men they confirmed were held in Syrian prisons, however petitions for official Lebanese government action have fallen on deaf ears.

 

“The Lebanese state is uninterested in the case of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons,” The chief of the association of Former Lebanese Political Detainees in Syrian Syrian Prisons said Thursday. 

 

“We have often highlighted the [the issue] but [the state] pays no attention, as if it is completely incapable [of affecting] the dossier and does not give it any importance,” Ali Abu Dehn told El Nashra news.

 

A number of the political prisoners have been released intermittently in the years following the Lebanese Civil War, including most recently in 2012 when Yaacoub Shamoun returned to his home country after 27 years in detention.

 

Although the fate of the Lebanese detainees has remained shrouded under the cover of Syrian secrecy, Dehn told An-Nahar newspaper that a number of Lebanese were still in the Palmyra prison.

 

ISIS stormed into Palmyra on Wednesday as regime troops took flight from the desert town, raising questions over the fate of inmates held at the infamous detention center.

 

Syrian National Coalition member Ahmad Ramadan said Thursday that he had received information that “the regime has either executed the prisoners in the jail or handed them over to ISIS.”

 

Reports emerged earlier in the week that the Syrian military had transferred a large number of inmates from the facility to another location after ISIS began encroaching on the prison.

 

The city’s jail has a notorious reputation stretching back decades for its human rights abuses, including the use of extreme torture methods.

 

Tens of thousands of Syrian political prisoners and common criminals served time in the desert jail, which is located along the eastern edge of Palmyra near the city’s airport.

 

On June 27, 1980, the Syrian regime’s Defense Brigades stormed the facility and killed approximately 1,000 detainees after a failed assassination attempt against then President Hafez al-Assad.

 

The facility was closed in 2001, but reopened ten years later at the advent of the Syrian uprising to host hundreds of anti-regime detainees.

A video purports to show ISIS members burning a Bashar al-Assad picture in Tadmor Prison. (YouTube)

Syria is believed to have “forcibly disappeared” over 600 Lebanese men during the country’s 1975-1990 Civil War.