Thousands of Syrian protesters brush off reforms

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British diplomats have warned that violent clashes are anticipated between local security forces and demonstrators.

Also Wednesday, human rights activists said Syrian authorities arrested an opposition figure at his home during an overnight raid, hours after the government announced an end to emergency rule.

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

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

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 Sunday in Homs.

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 didn’t know who was behind the killing and called for an investigation, enraging bereaved relatives who reportedly threatened Mr. Issa before alerting the police.

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

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