Activists: Syria Is Tricking Monitors

Even as Syria releases another 500 prisoners
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2012 10:05 AM CST
Activists: Syria Is Tricking Monitors
In this Jan. 3, 2012 file photo provided by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Arab League monitors walk through the Al-Sabil area of Daraa, Syria.   (AP Photo/SANA, File)

Arab League observers in Syria have been claiming as their chief triumph the regime's evacuation of its troops from protest-prone cities. But activists say that hasn’t actually happened—the regime is just using some cheap tricks to make it look like it has, Reuters reports. Activists say the government has steered monitors into loyalist neighborhoods, changed street signs to confuse them, and even painted army vehicles blue to look like police ones. One video shows armored vehicles simply hiding behind dirt barriers.

“We are not seeing the release of detainees, or the true removal of a military presence from the streets,” says the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian authorities today announced the release of 552 political prisoners, the AP reports, in addition to 3,500 the Arab League says have already been released. But activists say 25,000 are still captive. The reports are nigh-impossible to verify, because Syria still has defied the Arab League's demand that it allow foreign journalists into the country. (More Syria stories.)

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