May 31 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered the release of political detainees including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement, state television reported today.
“The pardon includes members of all political currents, including the Muslim Brotherhood,” the television said. The step also cuts in half prison sentences for some common crimes committed before May 31, it said.
Protests against Assad’s rule have swept the country, inspired by the uprisings that ousted the longtime rulers of Egypt and Tunisia. Syrian security forces have killed more than 1,100 people and detained more than 10,000, human-rights groups say. The government blames the protests on Islamic militants and foreign provocateurs.
Assad had ordered the release on April 10 of 191 people detained during the unrest. The uprising in Syria drew initial pledges of reform from the president, who lifted an emergency law in place since 1963 and named a new government. He hasn’t repeated the assurances in recent weeks as security forces stepped up their assaults.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in Syria since the 1963 coup that brought to power the secular Baath party, which continues to rule the country. Membership of the Muslim Brotherhood is punishable by death under Syrian law.