BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued an amnesty on Thursday for Syrians convicted of crimes committed before Nov. 16, but listed a number of exclusions including for offenders who had caused deaths or been involved in weapons smuggling.
The decree, published by state news agency SANA, said that sentences would be lifted in full for some convicts, including those who had committed misdemeanors, those with incurable diseases, and those over the age of 70.
It said those qualifying for the amnesty who had been sentenced to death would instead serve lifelong jail terms, while those sentenced to life in prison would have their time reduced to 20 years.
The decree excluded, however, convicts whose crimes had led to the death of a person, those involved in weapons smuggling and anyone fleeing justice who did not turn themselves in within the coming months.
Assad has issued a number of amnesties in recent years.
In early September, he issued a decree abolishing the notorious "military field courts" which rights groups accuse of issuing death sentences without due process for prisoners.
Under a December 2022 decree Syria would pardon draft dodgers and help them avoid prison if they report to duty within three to four months.
With help from Russia and Iran, Assad has reclaimed control of most of the country from an array of rebel factions, some that were backed by foreign governments and jihadist militants.
The war, which spiraled out of an uprising in 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and uprooted half the pre-war population.
Many Syrians who fled rebel-held areas of the country, as well as draft dodgers, still fear reprisals if they return.