The recent amnesty in Syria led to the release of prisoners who had been declared dead to their families.
The detainees were released following a presidential amnesty for those accused of “terrorist crimes”.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the relatives of a man, Z.M., who had been imprisoned for 10 years, were informed by authorities that he had died in prison.
His name was even listed as dead in a circular issued by local authorities and his family had even received his identification card.
Since then, the family had lost hope that he was alive. So their shock was indescribable when they learned that he was in fact alive and included in the amnesty.
So shocked were they that they had to really make sure it was him. In spite of his extreme fatigue, he went on to list the names of his father, mother, siblings, aunts, uncles and other relatives. His family was then sure that it was indeed Z.M.
Another family has not been as fortunate.
A father of a detainee spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat of his son who has been imprisoned for 10 years and has yet to be released.
“We have no information about where he is,” he lamented.
“We asked many who have been released, but no one knows anything about him.”
President Bashar al-Assad has issued several amnesty decrees during the country’s devastating 11-year war, which broke out after the regime cracked down on mostly peaceful protesters.
But human rights activists said recent release — following a decree issued in April — is the most comprehensive in relation to terrorism charges.
The new decree calls for “granting a general amnesty for terrorist crimes committed by Syrians” before April 30, 2022, “except for those leading to the death of a person”.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that more than 640 detainees have already been freed.
Half a million people have been detained in regime prisons since the start of the war, with about 100,000 dying either under torture or due to poor detention conditions, according to the Observatory.