Dozens of prisoners who originate from Syria’s southern Daraa governorate have been released, mostly from the country’s largest and most notorious prison, Sednaya. Their release came upon the implementation of an amnesty decree issued by President Bashar al-Assad.
According to Daraa-based activists, some of those released were detained prior to the 2018 settlement deal struck by the opposition in the southern governorate and Damascus. However, others released were arrested and jailed after the 2018 deal.
The freed citizens, some of whom are in bad health, had spent 7,5, or 4 years in Syria’s penitentiaries.
M.M., aged 32, tells the story of how he was detained over three years ago by the Syrian authorities and had suffered humiliation and torture alongside other fellow inmates during their stay in Syria’s prisons.
His bitter story is backed up by the evidence of his malnourished slender body and the festering suppurations all over his limbs.
M.M. revealed that his jailers in Syrian prisons had a tradition of serving new inmates a “welcome party” that consisted of torture served by officers. Every time M.M. was transferred to a new facility, he had to relive the horrific party that ends with blood, tears, and pain.
M.M.’s arrest had come out of the blue. He had decided to visit a doctor in Damascus after the 2018 deal, which he had thought would spell the end of the government’s pursuit of him for having fought alongside opposition factions. Contrary to his belief, M.M. was arrested on charges of terrorism and was thrown into Sednaya two years ago.
“I signed all the confession papers under torture and beatings. Until the last release, the jailers and prison officials deliberately insulted us with words. They said that we were being released by the merit of the kindness of President Assad,” M.M. told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Activists on social media shared footage that they said illustrates the extent of the suffering experienced by Syrians and the large numbers of detainees in Syria.
Photos of some who were released were published on social media sites such as Twitter, with many users commenting on the frailness of the former detainees and their traumatized gaze, likely caused by years of torture and trauma under detention. Many of them also reportedly suffer from memory loss, mental illness, and loss of physical abilities.
The footage showed large crowds gathered at the “President's Bridge” area in Damascus and some areas in the cities of Homs and Hama. Families of prisoners held for years in Syrian jails were closely watching the implementation of the presidential decree giving a general amnesty to their relatives convicted on terrorism charges.
The Ministries of Interior and Justice issued two statements to the semi-official al-Watan newspaper regarding gatherings under the “President’s Bridge” area in central Damascus and called not to gather there.
Since the decree was issued on Saturday – which granted “a general amnesty for terrorist crimes committed by Syrians” before 30 April, 2022, “except for those leading to the death of a person” – a few hundred detainees have reportedly been released, so far.
For its part, the Justice Ministry announced that during the past two days, hundreds of prisoners arrested from various governorates in Syria have been released, provided that the procedures for releasing the detainees are completed.
The released inmates were first processed by the Criminal Court of Terrorism and the Public Prosecution at the Terrorism Court. For several detainees whose verdicts have been appealed, the Special Chamber of the Terrorism Court will take over the order for their release within the next two days, the Justice Ministry added.
The ministry also confirmed that all prisoners covered by the amnesty decree will be released successively in the coming days.