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Middle East
Syrian opposition figure arrested in Homs
Mahmuod Issa held while students in Aleppo reportedly stage protest, a day after ministry says rallies must be licensed.
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2011 14:07

Syrian authorities have arrested opposition figure Mahmuod Issa in city of Homs, activists say, while reports of more detentions are coming out of a protest at the university in Aleppo.

"A patrol of the political security services arrested [government] opponent Mahmud Issa on Tuesday night in Homs after he gave an interview to Al Jazeera television," Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

In his interview, Issa spoke of the death of General Abdo Khodr al-Tellawi in the region of Homs and asked authorities to investigate and arrest the perpetrators.

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The official SANA news agency said Tuesday that "armed criminal gangs... came upon General Abdo Khodr al-Tellawi, his two children and his nephew, and killed them in cold blood" and "mutilated" their bodies.

Activists said dozens of students demonstrated at the medical faculty at Aleppo University on Wednesday morning but were dispersed by security forces.

Suhair Atassi, a prominent rights activist in Damascus, said 37 students were arrested and beaten.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the head of the security police in the coastal city of Baniyas has been removed from his
post, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The observatory named the officer as Amjad Abbas, adding that it hoped "that this positive step will be followed through by holding accountable members of the security apparatus who have fallen short in their duty to guard security and protect citizens".

Residents and a rights activist in Baniyas said at least five civilians have been killed in the city by gunmen loyal to the president since pro-democracy protests challenging Bashar al-Assad's authoritarian rule erupted last month.

Meanwhile, Britain has asked its citizens to consider leaving Syria after it upgraded warning about the unrest there.

In a statement on Wednesday, the foreign office said it had changed its advice "in light of the deterioration in the security situation in Syria".

Rallies need permission

On Tuesday, cabinet approved a bill to abolish emergency laws, which gave the government a free hand to arrest people without any charges. The bill will need to be approved by parliament, which is not expected to meet until May 2, and signed by the president.

The emergency laws will be replaced with new legislation which critics fear will be equally repressive, and the interior ministry has passed a law stating that citizens must obtain permission to demonstrate.

The lifting of emergency law had been a key demand in the protests, which began a month ago.

But Malik al-Abdeh, the editor-in-chief of Syrian opposition Barada TV, based in London, said the end of emergency law would not be enough to appease protesters.

"After several hundred people were killed and over 1,000 arrested, this is no longer the demand of the people," he told Al Jazeera.

"It's been quite clear over the last few days, that protesters are now demanding the end of the regime. The regime has been exposed for what it is. A lot of people see now that the civilian facade of the regime, the government, the Baath party, the media, these facades are not the real decision makers.

"The ones who decide policy are the security forces, headed of course by Bashar al-Assad, and this is what people are rebelling against ... The problem is primarily the issue of the immunity of prosecution the security forces enjoy and the overwhelming powers they have over all aspects of public life."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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