East GhoutaJuly 2, 2015http://syriadirect.org/news/syria-direct-news-update-7-2-15/The United Military Command (UMC) in Damascus’s regime-encircled East Ghouta announced a general amnesty on Wednesday for detainees held in its jails, days after civilian protestors called for their release and the fall of Zahran Aloush, the commander of Jaish al-Islam (JAI) and leader of the UMC. Aloush returned to the blockaded east Damascus suburbs after a long absence on Wednesday, having left months before on a tour of JAI positions in Idlib and Latakia as well as a visit to Jordan and Turkey for “political, civil and revolutionary activities,” JAI spokesman Islam Aloush posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday. Activists on the ground see the amnesty as a way for Aloush to both assuage citizens and assert Jaish al-Islam’s control over rebel-held Ghouta, just east of Damascus. “It is as though Aloush is speaking through the decision, saying ‘I am present, and my presence means that everything has a solution, and things are going well,’” a civilian activist from the East Ghouta city of Douma, who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons, told Syria Direct on Thursday. The amnesty applies to all crimes that took place before Wednesday, according to the terms of the amnesty decree posted to an official United Military Command Twitter account. It does not extend to detainees accused of belonging to the Islamic State, collaboration with the regime, murder, forgery and homosexuality. Three days of civilian demonstrations earlier this week calling for JAI detainees’ release and criticizing Aloush saw several protesters arrested by JAI forces, the same Douma activist told Syria Direct, though the terms of the amnesty apply to them as well.