Assad approves new anti-terror laws as opposition meets in Cairo
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Monday ratified three laws that impose heavy penalties to those who commit "terrorist" acts in order to change the nature of the regime, reported the official SANA news agency. "Those who are direct members of a terrorist group may be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison with hard labor, but the punishment will be harder if the goal is to change the regime or the nature of the state," according to the text of the law approved by Parliament last Thursday.
"If these acts result in death or disability for victims, death sentences can be imposed," it added.
Moreover, "the financing of terrorism, that is to say, any action to collect, directly or indirectly, providing money, weapons, ammunition, explosives, communication means and information which can be used in terrorist acts are punishable with 15 to 20 years in prison. "
The lowest penalty - five years in prison – is for those involved in acts that do not result in property damage.
Another law states that an employee may be dismissed if he or she found guilty by a court for " direct or indirect involvement in a terrorist act, or if he/she provides a material or moral support to a terrorist group".
The third law stipulates "10 or 20 years in prison with hard labor" and "fines for the perpetrators of kidnappings for ransom."
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition groups tried Monday in Cairo, under the auspices of the Arab League, to develop a common vision of the post-Assad Syria, after rejecting an international road map providing a transitional period. The meeting "is an opportunity that we should not lose under any circumstances," said Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, in his opening speech, calling on the opposition to unite.
"Time is not on our side," he added, stressing the need for a "pluralistic democratic system that does not discriminate" between Syrians. On his part, Nasser al-Qidwa, the deputy of international mediator Kofi Annan also urged the opposition to unite. "It's not a choice but a necessity if the opposition wants to win the confidence of its people in Syria," he said.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait were also present.
The goal is to "achieve a unified vision for the transition period and the future of Syria", George Sabra, spokesman for the Syrian National Council (CNS), told AFP.
However, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the opposition's armed force composed mainly of deserters, has announced its intention to boycott the meeting, calling it a "conspiracy" and rejecting any negotiations with the regime. The rebels have blamed the participants of "rejecting the idea of a foreign military intervention to save the people" and "ignoring the issue of buffer zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, air embargo and arming rebels." "The Cairo conference aims to give a new chance to Kofi Annan to maneuver again to persuade Assad to implement his plan (...), forgetting that thousands of people fell as martyrs since the beginning of the implementation of this plan, " deplored the statement.
The meeting, which lasts two days, came as violence continued in Syria. According to activists, the Syrian army continued Monday its bombing of rebel areas in Homs, where doctors are forced to amputate the wounded due to lack of medical aid. "People can't get out, the bombing does not stop, there are tanks everywhere," said Khaled al-Tellawy, an activist in Homs contacted via Skype.
At the border with Lebanon, two members of the Syrian border police were injured Monday when a rocket fired from Lebanese territory, said a statement from the Lebanese General Security. This is the first time that shots against Syrian territory from Lebanon reported since the crisis in Syria started.
On Sunday, 79 people died in violence, including 38 civilians, 28 soldiers and 13 rebels.