Syria protesters call for freedom after Assad pledge

April 17, 2011 14:21


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AMMAN - Syrian protesters chanted slogans calling for greater freedom at an independence day rally in the southern town of Suweida on Sunday, a witness said, a day after President Bashar al-Assad promised to lift an emergency law.

The rally took place to mark Evacuation Day, commemorating the departure of the last French soldiers 65 years ago and Syria's proclamation of independence. Supporters of Assad were also present declaring loyalty to the president.Assad said on Saturday, the emergency law, in place for almost 50 years, would be lifted by next week. But he did not address protesters' demands to curb Syria's pervasive security apparatus and dismantle its authoritarian system.

"God, Syria, freedom, that's all," chanted several hundred protesters among the crowd. They also shouted "no fear" and slogans supporting the city of Deraa, where protests first broke out a month ago and which has seen the heaviest bloodshed.

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