Assad Announces Amnesty for 'Terrorist' Prisoners
Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad announced an unprecedented prisoner amnesty on Monday, less than a week after his re-election, AFP reported.
Announced five days after Assad was re-elected with nearly 90 percent in a ballot decried as a "farce" by the opposition and the West, the amnesty is the first extended to those accused under a controversial anti-terrorism law.
The July 2012 law has been used to jail tens of thousands of regime opponents, armed and unarmed.
Syrian state television said Monday's amnesty would cover all crimes committed before June 9, and would for the first time extend to those accused under the country's controversial terrorism law.
The government has accused all those opposed to Assad's rule of "terrorism".
State media 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".
The amnesty is not the first time the government has offered clemency, but it is the first that pledges reduced sentences, and in some cases freedom, to regime opponents, noted AFP.
There are an estimated 100,000 people in custody for activities related to the uprising which began in March 2011.
Some 18,000 of those detained have "disappeared", according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The conflict began with peaceful anti-government demonstrations that were met with live fire by government forces, eventually prompting some in the opposition to take up arms.
In the more than three years since, upwards of 162,000 people have been killed.