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Assad Announces Amnesty, Opposition Unimpressed

Assad grants general amnesty for crimes committed before May 31, 2011. "It's too little, too late," say opposition members.

By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/1/2011, 3:55 AM / Last Update: 6/1/2011, 6:16 AM

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday announced a new legislative decree which grants general amnesty for crimes committed before May 31, 2011.

According to the Syria-based SANA news agency, the amnesty includes all members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other detainees belonging to political movements. The amnesty also pardons half penalties for felonies if there was no personal claim.

The new legislation replaces death penalty with life sentence of hard labor or long imprisonment sentence according to the crime and replaces life sentence of hard work with 20 years imprisonment with hard labor and long-life imprisonment sentence with 20 years imprisonment.

Syrian opposition activists, however, were unimpressed by Assad’s announcement, saying it is too little, too late.

“This measure is insufficient: we demanded this amnesty several years ago, but it’s late in coming,” Abdel Razak Eid of the ‘Damascus Declaration,’ a reformist group launched in 2005 to demand democratic change, was quoted by AFP as saying.

“We are united under the slogan: the people want the fall of the regime and all those who have committed crimes brought to account. Blood will not have been spilled in vain,” he added.

Razak Eid made the comments in Turkey, where he was gathered with other opposition activists to discuss democratic change in Syria and voice support for the revolt.

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood delegation at the meeting, Melhem al-Durubi, dismissed Assad’s amnesty announcement as well.

“The Brotherhood joins with the Syrian people in calling for the fall of the regime,” he said.

The head of the Syrian Human Rights League Abdul Karim Rihawi welcomed the amnesty, saying it was a “demand we have been making for years” and urging the Syrian government to “take further steps to boost respect for human rights” in Syria.

Rihawi also demanded that decree 49, which makes membership in the Muslim Brotherhood a crime punishable by death, be abolished.

Meanwhile, the brutal crackdown on protesters continued Tuesday, with a rights activist saying three civilians were shot dead by Syrian security forces at Rastan in the centre of the country and in the southern region of Dera’a.

It was also reported that two people were shot dead overnight at Hirak, a town in the province of Dera’a.

Human rights organizations are saying that more than 1,100 civilians have been killed so far in the Syrian military’s brutal crackdown on protesters in the country.

Among those killed is a 13-year-old boy, who was arrested on April 29 after an anti-government protest in Dera’a and whose body was returned to his parents on last Wednesday.

Iran has reportedly been assisting the Syrian regime in fighting the protesters by sending in military personnel and advisers.