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End of emergency rule in Syria unlikely to quell protests or stop arrests

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The government still rules with impunity, agrees Bilal Saab, a Middle East expert from the University of Maryland at College Park. If anything, he adds, lifting the emergency law will embolden protesters on Friday.

"If there is one trajectory of this dissent movement, it is they are no longer afraid," he says. "I think the window of reconciliation is rapidly shrinking, if it ever existed. I do not think this will stop the dissent movement. Quite frankly, I think it will most likely lead to greater societal unrest."

Arrests continue

Hours after the legislation passed Tuesday, police arrested popular opposition figure Mahmoud Issa in Homs, where some 5,000 people protested on Monday until security forces opened fire on the crowd. At least 200 people have died since unrest began in mid-March, according to activists.

President Assad was slated to issue a decree today approving the draft laws, according to Al Watan newspaper. His cabinet has also asked officials to draft laws that would permit opposition parties and liberalize media.

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