Death sentences are often passed through secret trials or during court proceedings which lack basic safeguards such as the right to a lawyer, and with confessions routinely extracted under torture or other ill treatment and duress.

Syria has executed 24 people after convicting them on terrorism charges for igniting last year’s devastating wildfires, leaving three people dead and burning thousands of hectares (acres) of forests, AP reports, citing the country’s Justice Ministry.

The publicized executions of a large group of people is rare in war-torn Syria, where a decade-old conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced half the country’s population, including 5 million refugees outside the country.

Wildfires broke out in several Middle Eastern countries in October 2020 amid a heat wave that was unusual for that time of the year, leaving Syria particularly hard-hit. Three people were killed in the blazes, which also burned wide areas of forests, mostly in government-controlled regions of Latakia and the central province of Homs.

President Bashar Assad’s hometown of Qardaha in Latakia province was hard hit by the fires, which heavily damaged a building used as storage for the state-owned tobacco company, part of which collapsed. Assad made a rare visit to the region shortly after the fire was brought under control.

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