Under mounting pressure, Assad offers amnesty to soldiers who defected

Special to WorldTribune.com

NICOSIA — President Bashar Assad has offered amnesty to the
thousands of Sunni soldiers who joined the rebels.

Assad issued a general amnesty for all who failed to report to military
duty. The beleaguered president, fighting a revolt since March, gave
defectors until January 2012 to return to their units.

Syrian President Bashar Assad waves to supporters after he attended the prayer of Eid Al Adha at the al-Nour Mosque in the northern town of Raqqa, Syria, on Nov. 6. /Sana

“President Bashar Assad issued the legislative decree No. 124 for the year 2011 on granting general amnesty to the persons, of the military age, who were defaulted from undergoing the conscription tests or from acceding to the army without lawful excuse,” the official Syrian news agency, Sana, said.

In a report on Nov. 5, Sana did not provide an estimate of how many soldiers have fled the military. The head of the Free Syrian Army, Col. Riad Assad, has asserted that at least 15,000 soldiers have joined the rebels.

“We wouldn’t advise anybody to turn themselves in to regime authorities at the moment,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Opposition sources have also dismissed the amnesty offer. They said the regime has repeatedly violated pledges, the latest to the Arab League, to stop firing on peaceful protesters.

Western diplomats said many of the defectors have joined Islamic
insurgency squads. They said the defectors were using their military
knowledge to ambush security force convoys as well as assassinate

“Defaulted persons should consult to their recruitment divisions within
60 days starting from the circulation date of the decree,” Sana said.

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