Assad offers amnesty to Syrian opponents

President’s offer covers inmates, defectors and foreigners but rights groups say other decrees have not been honoured.

The decree was issued five days after Assad had won a much-criticised election [AP]

Bashar al-Assad has announced a general amnesty for prisoners, less than a week after he was re-elected to another seven-year term as Syria’s president, state media reported.

Assad’s decree, released on Monday, said pardons will be offered to those accused of “terrorist acts” or those who “set up a group aimed at changing the economic or social nature of the state”.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from neighbouring Lebanon, said the amnesty offers reduced sentences and full pardons for a number of crimes.

Assad has issued several amnesties since protests against his rule erupted in March 2011. Previous declarations have not been fully implemented and rights groups have cautioned that many people still languish in prison as a result.

The decree also promised a pardon to those who “plotted to carry out any crime” as listed under Syrian anti-terrorism law, as well as those accused of joining “a terrorist organisation or of forcing someone to join a terrorist organisation”.

The amnesty also covers those accused of “weakening national sentiment”, and people accused of “inciting an armed rebellion against the authorities”.

The text says also that those who defected from the army will be extended a full pardon if they hand themselves in within three months of the decree.

It is also the first amnesty that offers clemency to foreign fighters, as long as they hand themselves in within a month.

State television cited Justice Minister Najem al-Ahmad as saying the decree was issued in the context of “social forgiveness, national cohesion calls for coexistence, as the army secures several military victories”.

Source: AFP