Assad denies Amnesty report of mass hangings in Syria

Damascus, Feb 10 (IANS) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the recent report issued by Amnesty International about mass hangings in a prison near the capital Damascus was biased and politicised.

In an interview with the American Yahoo News issued on Friday by state news agency SANA, the President said the report put into question the reputation of the organisation.

“We don’t look at it as unbiased, it’s always biased and politicized, and it’s a shame that such an organisation releases a report without any evidence whatsoever,” Assad said.

On February 7, the Amnesty released a report that the Syrian authorities in Saydnaya prison near Damascus carried out mass hangings of as many as 13,000 people.

The rights watchdog accused the government of a “policy of extermination”, adding that its report was based on interviews with 84 witnesses, including guards, detainees, and judges.

The executions happened between 2011 and 2015, said the report, adding that most of those slain were civilians opposed to the Syrian government. They were taken out of their cells “in the middle of the night and in total secrecy.”

In his interview, President Assad said “that doesn’t mean anything”.

He continued that Amnesty International did not visit Syria, “and they have made their reports based on allegations, they could bring any person, regardless of whom he is, you can forge anything these days, and we are living in the era of fake news, as you know, and thus we should not rely on that.”

On allowing international organisations to visit the prison and inspect the allegations, Assad said that such approval relies on the credibility of the organisation, “because they could use such a visit to demonise the Syrian government more and more, like what is happening now.”

Assad maintained that what was happening in Syria was a result of the western and regional support to the terrorist groups, saying that the US have killed civilians since their war on Vietnam, all the way to Iraq, where 1.5 million Iraqis were reportedly killed by the US invasion.

He further quoted former US President Barack Obama as confessing that the presence of the IS was a result of the US invasion to Iraq.

On prospects of cooperation with the current administration of President Donald Trump, Assad said that if the Trump administration was serious about fighting terrorism, it should happen through cooperation with the Syrian government.

Regarding Trump’s talks of creating safe zones in Syria to host the Syrian refugees, Assad said that such a plan is “unrealistic”.

“Safe zones in Syria can happen when there is peace and security, where there is no more support to the terrorists by neighbouring or Western countries, then there can be a natural safe zone, which is our country.”

He said that restoring stability to make Syria safe again is less costly, and more practical that creating safe zones.

Assad considered that any cooperation in any conflict around the world demands a Russian-US rapprochement, “It’s extremely essential, not only for Syria.”