Syria’s Assad to lift emergency Wednesday


DAMASCUS – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was on Wednesday set to lift the emergency law in place since 1963, reported the Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime.
“The presidency of the republic will today enact three decrees on the lifting of the emergency law, the abolition of the State Security Court and the regulation of peaceful demonstrations,” the daily quoted an unnamed senior official as saying.
“This package is part of a strategic programme of political reforms aimed at strengthening the democratic process, broadening citizen participation (in politics), consolidating national unity and the security of the homeland and its citizens,” Al-Watan added.
The government announced Tuesday a series of measures intended to secure its grip on Syria in an attempt to calm a protest movement that has been growing across the country over the past month.
The cabinet approved a bill to rescind the state of emergency, but Assad can use presidential decrees to by-pass parliament, which had only been due to convene and vote on the bill after May 2.
Repeal of the emergency law has been a central demand of reformists since protests began on March 15.
Around 220 people have been killed by security forces or plain-clothes police since the start of the protest movement, the rights watchdog Amnesty International says.
At least 10 people were reported killed on Tuesday in clashes in the central city of Homs, where some 20,000 people staged an overnight sit-in protest demanding Assad’s ouster.