Syrian authorities free 60 prisoners in presidential amnesty: Monitor

Syrian authorities free 60 prisoners in presidential amnesty: Monitor

Syrian authorities have freed 60 detainees, including some held in regime prisons for over a decade, in a presidential amnesty which also covers terror-related convictions, a war monitor said Monday.

“About 60 detainees have been released since Sunday, from various Syrian regions, some of whom have spent at least 10 years” in regime prisons notorious for killings and torture, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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President Bashar al-Assad has issued several amnesty decrees during the country’s 11-year war, which broke out after the regime cracked down on mostly peaceful protesters.

But human rights activists said the new decree issued on Saturday is the most comprehensive.

The new decree calls for “granting a general amnesty for terrorist crimes committed by Syrians” before April 30, 2022, “except for those leading to the death of a person.”

This would mean that tens of thousands of detainees could be released, according to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

Many are accused of terrorism offences, “a loose label used to convict those who are arbitrarily arrested,” he said.

Syrian activists shared a list of 20 released detainees on social media, including people who wasted for years in the notorious Sednaya prison — a jail that Amnesty International described as a “human slaughterhouse.”

The NGO found that authorities killed about 13,000 people there by hanging in four years.

Lawyer Nora Ghazi said the new amnesty was “the widest since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, as it includes all terror crimes except those that caused death.”

She heads “No Photo Zone,” a group providing legal assistance to the families of detainees and missing persons.

Ghazi expects many more to be released “but this will take time,” she said.

Prior to the decree, Assad last announced an amnesty in May 2021, weeks before his re-election for a fourth presidential term.

Half a million people have been detained in regime prisons since the onset of the war, with about 100,000 dying either under torture or due to insalubrious detention conditions, the Observatory said.

Activists also accuse the regime of torturing inmates to death, of rape, sexual assaults and extrajudicial executions.

The decree applies to offences including “working with terrorist groups, financing or training terrorism, manufacturing means of terrorism or disturbing security,” Syrian Deputy Justice Minister Nizar Sadqani told Syria’s official news agency SANA.

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