Syria govt approves lifting emergency law

Syria govt approves lifting emergency law

The cabinet also approved a bill regulating demonstrations, the official news agency SANA reported, only hours after the interior minister imposed a total ban on political gatherings.

With protests intensifying and spreading across the country, President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday delivered a speech to the new cabinet in which he promised an end to the draconian emergency law, in force since 1963.

The law restricts many civil liberties, including public gatherings and freedom of movement, and allows the "arrest of anyone suspected of posing a threat to security."
There was no immediate response from protest leaders, who have previously said the lifting of the state of emergency would not go far enough and have demanded an end to the Baath party's stranglehold on Syrian politics.

Repeal of the emergency law has been a central demand of reformists since protests began on March 15.

At least 200 people have been killed by security forces or plain-clothes police since the start of the protest movement, according to Amnesty International.

Violence erupted again today, with at least 10 people reported killed in clashes in the central city of Homs, where some 20,000 people staged a sit-in protest overnight demanding the fall of Assad's regime.

The government also announced a crackdown on an "armed revolt" by Islamist radicals, while Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar earlier Tuesday told people "to refrain from taking part in all marches, demonstrations or sit-ins under any banner whatsoever."
He warned that if demonstrations were held, "the laws in force in Syria will be applied in the interest of the safety of the people and the stability of the country".

At the outset, the authorities relaxed enforcement of the emergency law to permit peaceful gatherings but quickly started clamping down.

In his Saturday speech, Assad said demonstrations are "allowed by the Syrian constitution" but that "there is no law in place to regulate them" and that "police must first be trained and equipped to handle them.

"The role of police is to protect demonstrators as well as public and private goods from all acts of sabotage, for which there will be no tolerance because people reject anarchy," he added.