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Syrian opposition figure arrested

Syrian authorities have arrested a left-wing opposition figure at his home during an overnight raid, hours after the government announced an end to nearly 50 years of emergency rule, rights activists said.

Syrian Human Rights League chief Abdul-Karim Rihawi said security agents picked up Mahmoud Issa from his home in the central city of Homs after an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera satellite TV late on Tuesday.

He said his "arbitrary arrest is in line with the state of emergency rule" and said he expected Mr Issa to be released after President Bashar Assad signs the decree formally abolishing the emergency rule.

The reviled legislation, in place since Mr Assad's ruling Baath Party came to power in 1963, gave the regime a free hand to arrest people without charges.

Despite its repeal, defiant anti-government protesters accuse the president of buying time and clinging to power in one of the most repressive Middle East regimes.

Rights activist Mazen Darwish said the interview Mr Issa gave to Al-Jazeera angered relatives of a Syrian brigadier general who was killed along with his two sons and a nephew in Homs on Sunday.

The government says they were gunned down by "armed gangs" that authorities blame for the violence during anti-government protests of the past month.

Darwish said Mr Issa, in the interview, said he did not know who was behind the killing and called for an investigation, enraging bereaved relatives who reportedly threatened him before alerting the police.

Mr Issa, who spent years in prison for his pro-democracy views, was picked up from his home shortly afterwards.

Syria has seen anti-government protests that have shaken Mr Assad's authoritarian regime. At least 200 people have been killed as the government cracked down on the protesters.

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