The Syrian army said that it had executed 24 people who were on trial for “inciting to start fires,” including some suspected of fomenting the recent wildfires that raged across much of the country. In a series of court hearings, the perpetrators confessed to starting the fires, which have disrupted the U.N.’s refugee program, posing an urgent humanitarian need.
The government’s statement, published on state media, published on state media, said the suspects had “treacherously” threatened the country and posed a danger to Syrian citizens. “I know many of you,” a judge told the five defendants in a courtroom north of Damascus. “You all caused disasters in my country.” After the court session, other defendants were escorted to a nearby police station, where they were executed by “flash grenade and bullets,” state media reported.
Another 15 people were accused of attacking the homes of security forces in their efforts to hide their role in burning. “The weak are punished harshly, and the strong are rewarded,” state television said. The same court has already sentenced four people, including a college student, to death for arson-related crimes. In one of the latest court hearings, the state-run news agency SANA quoted the head of the Higher Judicial Committee, Judge Habib Attar, as saying that while the army had tried to bring justice, some judges had fallen “derelict” in their duties.
One judge was even suspected of participating in the fires in at least one case, witnesses said. A commander said the incident had “destroyed not only us but our country’s infrastructure as well,” suggesting that they may have been plotting wildfires months in advance.
The detention of suspects for arson was not uncommon before the crisis, which has killed more than half a million people and displaced nearly half of Syria’s population. Fires were started in some areas. For example, officials said there were three incidents last year in Deraa province where some burned almost 2,000 hectares of land. In one case, a tree limb fell onto a forest, causing the blaze. In another, there was no evidence that the fire was arson.
There is no evidence to back the claims that the government has been involved in the recent wildfires.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.
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