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Syria: Assad regime slow to release prisoners despite coronavirus risk in crowded jails

Prison cells [meesh/Flickr]
Prison cells, 6 September 2019 [meesh/Flickr]

The Syrian regime is hesitating in its action to release prisoners under an amnesty declared by President Bashar Al-Assad, raising fears of mass infections if the new coronavirus spreads through its overcrowded jails, rights groups said yesterday.

"The Syrian regime seeks to circumvent the pressures it is facing from organizations and states that fear the spread of COVID-19 in the ranks of detainees," Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), told Reuters.

He said none of those freed were civic activists or others among the tens of thousands of political prisoners detained since the outbreak of Syria's conflict, which began as a result of the government's brutal crackdown on peaceful protests against Assad's rule.

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The United Nations envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, last week underlined the risk of COVID-19 spreading across the country's prisons and urged quick action to free prisoners.

"In Syrian prisons and detention centres, COVID-19 could spread quickly due to poor sanitation, lack of access to clean water and severe overcrowding," said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East research director.

Amnesty InternationalCoronavirusInternational OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsSyriaUN
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