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Despite horrific testimonies and photographic evidence, Syria's Assad claims 'no torture in regime prisons' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Despite horrific testimonies and photographic evidence, Syria's Assad claims 'no torture in regime prisons'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said 100,000 soldiers 'martyred' themselves for their country [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 November, 2019

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied the use of torture in regime prisons.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied the use of torture on civilians in regime prisons, in an interview on Russian television Monday, adding that 100,000 soldiers from regime forces have been killed or wounded during the eight-year civil war.

In comments aired Monday on Russian state-sponsored television channel Russia Today, the president said his soldiers did not die to defend themselves, but as a sacrifice to their homeland.

Assad denied the use of torture in regime jails, despite claims to the contrary by human rights organisations, refuting specifically the torture of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb.

Khateeb became a symbol of the Syrian revolution in May 2011 when his mutilated body was handed back to his family a few days after he was picked up by security forces.

His death sparked a major backlash against Assad, with Syrians sickened at his murders turning up in greater numbers at demonstrations against the regime.

Assad added that Syrian regime intelligence services had all the information it needed about any citizen and that torture would never be required to extract information.

"The accusations of chemical weapons use were nothing more than allegations and whoever mentions it must prove his story and provide evidence," Assad said.

Assad also said Syria's 2021 presidential election will be open to any candidate seeking the role, Reuters reported, claiming the election planned for two years from now will see numerous opponents.

[Accurate as of July 2018]

"Last time we were three and this time of course we are going to have as much as they want to nominate. There are going to be numerous nominees," Assad said.

In the 2014 presidential election Assad faced two opponents but his critics say the election, which Assad won by a landslide, was a farce.

In the interview with RT, Assad commented on the situation in the country's northwestern province of Idlib, saying his forces will soon retake control of the last major rebel stronghold.

He said they are now giving civilians some time to leave the area that is dominated by al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Syrian regime troops launched a four-month offensive on the anti-government bastion earlier this year, killing around 1,000 civilians and displacing more than 400,000 people from their homes.

A ceasefire announced by Russia has largely held since late August, although the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says dozens of civilians have been killed in sporadic bombardment since then.

On Sunday, three children were among at least seven civilians killed in an airstrike on the region by Syrian regime ally Russia.

The airstrikes - the third wave by Russian aircraft in eight days on northwestern Syria - struck the village of Kafr Ruma in the jihadist-run enclave of Idlib, the Observatory said.

Read more: Assad officials begin trial in Germany, but in Syria regime abuses prevail

The Idlib region, which is home to some three million people including many displaced by Syria's eight-year civil war, is controlled by the country's former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Last month Assad said Idlib was standing in the way of an end to the civil war that has ravaged his country through most of the current decade.

The Syrian conflict broke out in 2011, after the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the Assad regime. More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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