World News

Five Syrians caught in Honduras heading for U.S. freed from jail

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Five Syrian men caught in Honduras trying to reach the United States last month on fake Greek passports were freed from jail on Tuesday, after they agreed to pay a fine in exchange for the charges against them being dropped, a court spokeswoman said.

Caught in Tegucigalpa’s Toncontin airport in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the Syrians had aroused fears in the United States of the possibility of Islamic State fighters entering through the country’s southern border with Mexico.

Honduran authorities, however, said there were no indications the men were militants. Court spokeswoman Barbara Castillo said the men had each agreed to pay a fine of 10,000 Lempiras ($450) for the charges of falsification of documents to be dropped.

A handful of detentions in Latin America in recent weeks exposed what could be a larger trend of Syrians escaping violence at home along less trodden paths through the region.

Castillo said the men were being freed provisionally from prison, and were expected to receive permanent refugee status on Feb. 22.

She said they had been warmly received by Honduras’ Arab community, and were planning to stay in the Central American country, which is one of the poorest and most violent in the world.

A Syrian woman and two Pakistani men detained last month in Honduras were still being investigated, officials said.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner and Sandra Maler