After security collapse, Assad threatens kidnappers with execution
DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered an amnesty deal to kidnappers in the war-torn country on Tuesday, giving them 15 days to hand over victims or face a life of hard labour, state news agency SANA said.
"Anyone who has kidnapped a person for a ransom and deprived him of his liberty for political, financial or sectarian reasons will be sentenced to a life of hard labour" if they do not meet the deadline, said the decree, according to SANA.
Kidnappers will be "executed if the crime led to the (victim's) death or permanent disability, as well as in case of sexual assault," the decree added.
Amnesty is available to "anyone who has kidnapped a person and sets him free or hands him over to the competent authorities within 15 days of the decree's entry into force," SANA said.
The decree represents "a serious, effective deterrent to this phenomenon", Justice Minister Najm al-Ahmad was quoted as saying.
Ahmad called on "those who have taken part in this crime to seize the opportunity presented by this decree to be pardoned from all punishment, by setting free victims of kidnapping."
"The kidnapping that has appeared in Syria in the past two years is an imported crime alien to the values of Syrian society," Ahmad added.
"To whoever has political or sectarian issues, it is not by kidnapping innocent people that you will solve problems. The doors of the government, all its ministries and political bodies are open," he said.
Kidnapping is rife in Syria, where a two-year conflict has left more than 70,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.
Monitors say money is a key motive for kidnapping, but sectarian attacks are on the rise. The majority of rebels, like the population, are Sunni Muslims, while Assad and several of his close associates belong to the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.