DAMASCUS – Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has issued a general amnesty for crimes committed in the war-torn country prior to Tuesday, state news agency SANA reported.
"President Assad has issued decree number 23, granting a general amnesty for crimes committed before 16 April, 2013," said the agency.
Under the decree, "the death penalty will be replaced with a life sentence of hard labour," it added.
Assad has issued several amnesty decrees since an uprising against his regime erupted in March 2011.
The latest will not apply to people found guilty of smuggling weapons or drug-related crimes, but those convicted of joining the rebellion would get lighter sentences, said the text of the decree published on SANA.
"Syrians who joined a terrorist organisation will only have to serve a quarter of their sentences," said the decree.
"The decision does not apply to those who avoided conscription," the text added. Pro-regime television channel Al-Ikhbariya will air an interview with Al-Assad on Wednesday, the broadcaster said.
"Syria's Al-Ikhbariya has conducted an exclusive interview with President Bashar al-Assad... and it will be broadcast on Wednesday... at 9:30 pm (18:30 GMT)," the channel said on its Facebook page.
Al-Ikhbariya published a photograph showing Assad seated in an office with two journalists.
In his last public appearance, Assad told two Turkish media outlets that the fall of his regime would produce a "domino effect" that would destabilise the region "for many years".
"The whole world knows that if Syria is partitioned, or if terrorist forces take control of the country, there will be direct contagion of the surrounding countries," he said on 5 April.
Troops loyal to Assad have been fighting an insurgency that erupted after forces loyal to Assad unleashed a brutal crackdown on an uprising that broke out in March 2011.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and driven more than five million others from their homes, including more than one million refugees.