By Eyad Kourdi and Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN
Syria has executed 24 people who were convicted of terrorism charges for igniting last year’s devastating wildfires that left 3 people dead and scorched thousands of acres of forests, the Syrian Ministry of Justice said Thursday.
The perpetrators confessed that they had set fire to several locations in the three governorates, and were first arrested last year, the Ministry of Justice statement said.
They were executed on Wednesday.
Eleven other people involved in setting the wildfires were given life sentences of hard labor, with four others sentenced to temporary hard labor, the statement said. Five minors were also given jail sentences ranging from 10 to 12 years for their involvement.
The fires affected 280 towns, damaged more than 370 homes and destroyed 11,000 hectares of forested land, with significant damage also caused to livestock, agricultural equipment and infrastructure, according to the Ministry of Justice. The fires spread across the provinces of Latakia, Tartous and Homs.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare visit to areas hit by the wildfires last October, Reuters reported, citing the official SANA news agency. Assad’s hometown of Qardaha, in Latakia province, was badly hit by the blaze.
The Ministry of Justice statement said that the perpetrators admitted to planning to set the fires at the end of August 2020 and that they carried out the crimes “intermittently” from September until October 2020.
Capital punishment in Syria is permissible in the case of crimes including treason, espionage, murder and arson.
In 2017, Amnesty International shed a light on a campaign of mass hangings in Saydnaya Prison, located north of the capital Damascus.
The Amnesty report, “Human Slaughterhouse” found that 13,000 people had been executed the prison, in a “hidden” campaign authorized by senior regime figures. The report alleges that prisoners were moved in the middle of the night from their cells under the pretext of being transferred, but instead, were taken to the grounds of the prison, where they were hanged.
The Ministry of Justice refuted the accusations.
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