Syrian president issues amnesty, reduces sentences

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Russian television channel NTV, in Damascus, Syria in this handout released on June 24, 2018. (SANA/Reuters)
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Updated 22 March 2020

Syrian president issues amnesty, reduces sentences

  • Similar amnesties have been issued on several occasions
  • The decree did not say if this was an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus

DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar Assad granted amnesty and reduced sentences for all crimes committed before Sunday, while also offering amnesty to military deserters who turn themselves in within the next few months.
Similar amnesties have been issued on several occasions, most recently in September of last year.
The decree did not say whether freeing prisoners was part of an attempt to halt the spread of the new coronavirus inside Syria’s jails. Syria is the only country in the Middle East that has reported zero coronavirus cases so far, although strict measures have been taken across the war-torn country to prevent the spread of the virus, including the closure of restaurants and cafes.
Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the new virus, released 85,000 prisoners last week on temporary leave. The move was apparently an effort to keep the virus from spreading through Iran’s prisons. Iran has been a strong ally of Assad during Syria’s nine-year civil war.
The conflict in Syria has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced half the country’s population. Opposition activists say tens of thousands of anti-government activists are held in jails around the country.
Sunday’s decree granted amnesty to several crimes that weren’t included in previous amnesties.However, the decree did not name which specific crimes were covered, instead referring to them by their number in Syrian criminal law. A government adviser, Abdul-Qader Azouz, later said the amnesty covered crimes committed since the war began in 2011, such as anti-government activity online and some acts of terrorism.
Death penalties would be replaced by life sentences with hard labor, while those serving life sentences would serve 20 years with hard labor, according to the decree. Juvenile prisoners would see their sentences cut in half. Prisoners suffering from incurable diseases and those over 70 years of age as of Sunday were to be freed.
Army deserters inside the country would receive amnesty if they surrender within three months, while those outside the country have six months to surrender, the decree said.
The amnesty did not include prisoners convicted of weapons smuggling or drug dealing.


UAE restructures government, seeking more agility as it deals with coronavirus impact

Updated 3 min 34 sec ago

UAE restructures government, seeking more agility as it deals with coronavirus impact

  • The energy and infrastructure ministries were merged under a single portfolio to be headed by the current energy minister, Suhail Al Mazrouei
  • Changes include abolishing half of government service centers and converting them to digital platforms within two years

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates announced a broad government restructuring on Sunday, merging government entities and appointing new economy and industry ministers, and giving it a year to achieve new targets.
The head of Abu Dhabi's national oil company ADNOC, Sultan al-Jaber, was named as industry and advanced technology minister and Abdullah al-Marri was appointed economy minister, as part of the restructuring announced by UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum on his official Twitter account.
The energy and infrastructure ministries were merged under a single portfolio to be headed by the current energy minister, Suhail Al Mazrouei.

The changes are being made to help the country deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Sheikh Mohammed said last month when plans to restructure were first announced.
Changes include abolishing half of government service centers and converting them to digital platforms within two years and merging around half of federal agencies with each other or within ministries.

Sheikh Mohammed, also the ruler of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, said the changes would speed up decision making and make the government more responsive to change.