05/03/2022, 14.28
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Amnesty for dozens of prisoners, including opponents and 'terrorists'

The authorities released at least 60 people in recent days, including some who spent over a decade in prison. Some were locked up in human “slaughterhouses”. This is the most comprehensive amnesty since civil war broke out in the spring of 2011. More may follow.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Syrian authorities have released 60 detainees, including some held in government prisons for over a decade; this follows a presidential amnesty that also includes terrorism-related convictions.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which has an extensive network of informants in the country, dozens of people have been freed in various Syrian regions since Sunday, some of whom spent several years in facilities, notorious for killings and torture.

Since the start of Syria’s war in the spring of 2011, President Bashar al-Assad has issued several amnesties; however, the latest is the most comprehensive, and covers people previously excluded because they were political prisoners or “terrorists”.

The new decree grants a “general amnesty for terrorist crimes committed by Syrians” before 30 April, 2022, “except for those leading to the death of a person”. According to the SOHR chief Rami Ab del Rahman, this could benefit tens of thousands of prisoners.

Some of the latter have been accused of terrorism-related crimes, but the latter are a “loose label used to convict those who are arbitrarily arrested,” Rahman explained.

Syrian activists posted a list of 20 released detainees on social media, including people who spent years in the infamous Sednaya prison, a place Amnesty International described as a “human slaughterhouse”, where the authorities killed about 13,000 people by hanging in four years.

The new amnesty was “the widest since the beginning of the Syrian revolution,” said Nora Ghazi, a lawyer who heads “No Photo Zone”, a group that provides legal aid to the families of detainees and missing persons. Many more could be released “but this will take time,” Ghazi added.

Assad’s previous amnesty dates back to May 2021, just before his re-election to a fourth term as president.

The new decree applies to offences like “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.

According to SOHR, about half a million people have been locked up in government prisons since the start of the war, with nearly 100,000 dying from torture or poor prison conditions.

Advocacy groups accuse the authorities of torturing detainees to death, rape, sexual assault and extrajudicial executions.

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