Syria’s Assad grants amnesties before presidential election

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a decree Sunday granting amnesty and reducing sentences for several categories of crime committed before May 2, state news agency SANA said.

SANA did not give a reason for the amnesty but it came days before Muslims celebrate Eid el-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It also comes ahead of the May 26 presidential elections, which Assad will most likely win for a fourth, seven-year term in office.

Since Syria’s conflict began in 2011, Assad has issued similar amnesties, the latest of which came in September 2019. The conflict has killed half a million people and displaced half the country’s prewar population including more than 5 millions who are refugees abroad.

SANA described Sunday’s presidential decree as “the most comprehensive amnesty decree for perpetrators of crimes, misdemeanors and felonies.”

The decree granted a complete pardon for the punishment for crimes and felonies including smuggling, drug abuse, and foreign currency trading.

It also covers kidnappings, provided that the kidnapped person was released before the date of the amnesty safe and sound.

The decree also allowed a general amnesty for military deserters who turn themselves in within 3 months for those inside the country, and 6 months for those outside the country.

The decree reduced the death penalty to life imprisonment with hard labor, and life imprisonment with hard labor to temporary hard labor for a period of 20 years.

The decree did not include an amnesty for the crimes of weapons smuggling, treason, espionage, consorting with the enemy, and terrorism crimes resulting in deaths.

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