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Syrian President Bashar al Assad declares amnesty for prisoners as election approaches

Bashar Al-Assad issued the decree ahead of presidential elections [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 May, 2021

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree authorising the release of some prisoners ahead of elections, in a move unlikely to bring hope to the families of political detainees.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on Sunday authorising the release of prisoners, including those convicted for misdemeanours or complicity in acts of "terrorism", Syrian regime media said.

The so-called general amnesty comes weeks before the May 26 presidential election, the second such polls since the start of the country's decade-long civil war.

The elections are not expected to be free or fair, with Assad almost certain to secure a fourth term.

The regime's SANA news agency published the decree but did not say how many prisoners would benefit.

Human rights groups have previously estimated that nearly 100,000 people have been detained or "forcibly disappeared" by the Assad regime since the start of Syria's conflict in 2011, with many detainees being tortured to death in regime prisons.

The regime's amnesty stipulates that pardons will be granted to prisoners convicted for crimes committed before May 2, 2021, including those convicted for misdemeanours as well as minors facing certain charges.

The decree includes crimes related to the terrorism act of 2012, including "conspiracy" to commit a "terrorist" act.

"Terrorism" is a term used by Damascus to encompass acts carried out by rebels and anti-regime activists.

But suspects convicted of "terrorist" acts that led to deaths would not benefit from the amnesty, according to the text of the decree published by SANA.

Drug traffickers, smugglers and those convicted for tax evasion could benefit from the amnesty under certain conditions, namely if they agree to pay a fine, according to the text.

Also included in the amnesty are army deserters who turn themselves in within three months -- if they are in the country - or within six months if they are abroad, it added.

Prisoners with incurable diseases over the age of 70 and kidnappers who agree to set free their hostages within 10 days would also be eligible.

Similar amnesties were announced in 2018 and in 2019 and this announcement is unlikely to bring hope to the families of detainees who have campaigned for the release fo their loved ones.

In 2014, after securing a new term in a controversial election conducted only in government-controlled areas, Assad likewise issued an amnesty.


Read more: Syria Insight: Assad begins his re-election campaign

Syria's war has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of pro-democracy protests by the Assad regime.

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