Assad orders new amnesty amid huge pro-government rallies in Syria
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday issued a new presidential pardon for prisoners, as tens of thousands took to the streets across Syria to support him.
Al-Assad "issued a decree granting general amnesty for crimes committed before June 20, 2011," the official SANA news agency reported.
This is the second pardon in less than a month, after his May 31 amnesty for all political prisoners detained during the unrest in the country, DPA reported.
Local human rights groups have said more than 1,300 civilians have been killed and 10,000 detained since protests demanding greater freedoms and the ouster of al-Assad erupted in March across Syria, a country of around 20 million people.
Al-Assad's decree comes one day after he promised a package of reforms and that a new constitution would be presented soon.
"I will ask the Ministry of Justice to study how can make the amnesty more comprehensive," al-Assad said in his speech on Monday.
Huge crowds filled the main squares in the different cities of Syria carrying flags and photos of al-Assad.
Thousands gathered at Umayyad Square in Damascus. More gathered in the centre of the cities of Homs, Lattakia, Daraa, Hama and Tartous, SANA added.
In only his third address to the nation since the uprising began in March, Assad said a national dialogue could lead to a new constitution, but said that there will be no reform amid "chaos."
His latest promise of reforms failed to win over anti-government protesters, who vowed to escalate their rallies.
European diplomats also said that Syria's president needs to back up his words with action or face the threat of further sanctions, while the US State Department called for "action, not words."