News / Middle East

Syria's Assad Grants Amnesty After Re-Election

FILE - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad heads a cabinet meeting in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Feb. 12, 2013.
FILE - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad heads a cabinet meeting in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Feb. 12, 2013.
Reuters
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a wide-ranging amnesty on Monday, less than a week after he was re-elected to another seven-year term in the midst of civil war.
 
In a decree published by state media, Assad commuted some death sentences to life imprisonment, reduced jail terms for many offenses and canceled some others altogether.
 
Foreigners who entered the country “to join a terrorist group or perpetrate a terrorist act” would receive an amnesty if they surrender to authorities within a month, the decree said. Kidnappers who free their hostages and army deserters would also be covered, it said.
 
Assad has issued several amnesties since protests against his rule erupted in March 2011. The demonstrations triggered a crackdown by his security forces and the conflict descended into a civil war which has killed more than 160,000 people.
 
Opponents say only a fraction of detainees were released in previous amnesties, leaving many thousands of people including political opponents and activists as well as ordinary criminals in prison, where they say many are subjected to abuse.
 
Former peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who stepped down at the end of May after the failure of peace talks in Geneva, said he had presented Assad with a list of prisoners whose release the opposition have demanded.
 
“He knows that there are 50,000 to 100,000 people in his jails and that some of them are tortured every day,” Brahimi told the German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published at the weekend.
 
Monday's decree set out several exemptions to the amnesty, without specifying which offenses they covered.
 
Rebels fighting to topple Assad have also taken thousands of captives. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights urged the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant rebel group on Saturday to free more than 2,000 detainees, including 150 Kurdish schoolchildren it said ISIL abducted last month.
 
Assad's decree said prisoners aged over 70 or suffering from incurable diseases would be freed. Drug and weapons smugglers would have their jail term reduced, as would prisoners convicted of economic crimes.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid