MOSCOW, June 9 (RIA Novosti) — Syrian President Bashar Assad declared a general amnesty shortly after being reelected for another presidential term, AFP reported Monday citing state TV.
According to human rights organizations, about 18,000 people are being held in Syrian prisons.
Assad had signed similar decrees in April and October 2013 in an effort to help end the country’s ongoing civil war. Under the presidential decree, anyone who had committed a crime before the signing was eligible, including military deserters.
Last week, Assad secured a third term in office by winning the presidential elections with 88.7 percent of the vote. It was the first multi-candidate presidential election in Syria in almost 50 years. Assad's rivals Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, secured 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.
European countries announced they did not recognize the results of the presidential elections in Syria, calling them illegitimate and a sham. US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Lebanon ridiculed the vote saying it was meaningless and that America would never recognize its outcome.
Russia said that the elections in the Arab country complied with all democratic standards and principles.
Syria has been torn by civil war for three years, with the West calling for Assad to step down. Moscow condemned the rise of terrorism in Syria. The Kremlin believes the international community can take steps toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict, rather than force regime change on Damascus.
More than 150,000 people have been killed since the start of the civil war in spring 2011, a third of them civilians, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights' April data. Nearly 3 million Syrian refugees have fled for Europe, North Africa and other regions, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.