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Syrian Government Frees Hundreds Of Prisoners

Antigovernment activists gesture during ongoing protests in Syria.
A Syrian human rights official says the government has freed hundreds of political prisoners, a day after issuing an amnesty.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said more than 500 prisoners were freed on June 1, including activists who took part in antigovernment demonstrations.

Syrian state television on May 31 that the amnesty covered "all members of political movements," including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which led an armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's father in 1982.

Membership in the party is punishable by death.

The amnesty could affect some 10,000 people who Syrian activists say have been rounded up since the protests against the Assad regime broke out in mid-March.

Rights groups say more than 1,100 people have been killed since the beginning of the protests.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the position of the Syrian government is becoming "less tenable" every day.

41 Killed In Central Town

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouna told Reuters on June 1 that Syrian military forces killed 41 civilians during an operation on May 31 to put down protests in the central town of Rastan.

Zaitouna said a four year old girl had been among those killed.

Syrian forces surrounded Rastan on May 29 and shelled the town on May 31.

Speaking from Damascus, Zaitouna said activists in Rastan had counted the dead, five of whom were reportedly buried today.

compiled from agency reports