Syria releases detainees

The government has been cracking down on Syrian protests

Perhaps the pressure from the Arab League – including the sending of monitors into Syria, is having an effect on Damascus.

The government announcing it’s releasing more than 500 detainees. People who it says do not have “blood on their hands.”

The regime is also admitting it has made some mistakes in its brutal crackdown on protesters.

In wake of raids on NGOS, Panetta urges Egyptian military to advance democracy

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – Expressing “deep concern” about raids earlier this week on non-governmental organizations operating in Egypt, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is telling the ¬†leader of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that it’s time to move the democratic process forward.

Speaking by phone with Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Panetta condemned the December 29 raids and expressed appreciation for Tantawi’s decision to stop them and make it easier for NGOs to operate in Egypt, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little reported.

Egyptian police and judicial officials reportedly raided the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House as well as other NGOs that have been critical of strong-armed practices by Egyptian officials.

Panetta underscored the need for the democratic process that began when a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February to proceed. “After two successful rounds of parliamentary elections, the secretary emphasized that it is critical for Egypt to continue on the path to democratic transition,” Little said.

The secretary also reaffirmed the importance of the longstanding U.S.-Egyptian security relationship, Little said. He “made clear that the United States remains committed to the strategic partnership and stands ready to cooperate with Egypt as it continues its democratic transition,” he said.

Visiting Cairo in October, the secretary said he has full confidence in Egypt’s ability to transform itself to a civilian-led democracy following 26 years of being ruled under a dissent-suppressing emergency law.

Panetta said such a transition would be a “tremendous signal” to the region about moving in a positive direction.


Arab League finds ‘nothing frightening’ in Syria

The UN says 5,000 are dead. YouTube videos document the brutal crackdown on unarmed protesters in Syria. Enough to prompt the Arab League to demand that it send observers in. And they did.

But now, those observers say, like the WMDs of Iraq, if they ever existed, the human rights violations are gone now – perhaps in honor of their visit. The head of the delegation declaring ¬†they’ve found “nothing frightening” in Syria.

Arab League observers arrive in Syria

Syrian protesters say this man was gunned down by a tank

About 50 observers from the Arab League have landed in Syria – there to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by a government that – according to the United Nations – has killed 5,000 of its own people – people peacefully protesting the regime in the streets.