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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Assad issues amnesty to political prisoners

In what may be his first concession to what has happened in his country in the last two and a half months, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a general amnesty to political prisoners.
The amnesty covers "all members of political movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood", it said. Membership of the Brotherhood, which led an armed uprising against Assad's father in 1982, is punishable by death in Syria.

Assad's move was the latest in a series of reforms -- including lifting a 48-year state of emergency and granting citizenship to stateless Kurds in eastern Syria -- aimed at addressing grievances of protesters.

But those steps have been accompanied by a ruthless military crackdown in which rights campaigners say 1,000 civilians have been killed and more than 10,000 people arrested.

Activists said at least five people were killed on Tuesday when tanks shelled the central town of Rastan and security forces stormed Hirak, a town in the southern Hauran Plain where the uprising first broke out in mid-March.


The official SANA news agency said two soldiers were killed in an operation to arrest "armed terrorist groups" in Rastan. It quoted a military source saying army and security forces seized weapons and ammunition in Rastan and killed or injured "a number of armed terrorists".


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