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Honduran govt repeals restrictions on freedom

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - 10:27

Tegucigalpa/Washington: The de facto government of Honduras has repealed a controversial decree that had restricted freedom of movement and freedom of expression in the country in the wake of the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya last month.

Hours earlier, in Washington, Zelaya had issued a statement asking the de facto government to end repression and restore "unrestricted" freedom of expression as signs it is serious about dialogue to end the country`s political stalemate.

Zelaya`s supporters and the international community had criticised the decree as establishing a covert state of emergency in the troubled Central American country.
"The decree has been completely repealed," said Roberto Micheletti Monday, who was named to lead the country after the coup.

Zelaya, who was ousted and sent into exile June 28, secretly returned to Honduras Sep 21 and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. The international community has refused to recognise the de facto government and has demanded Zelaya`s reinstatement.

The government decree had been approved Sep 26 and authorised police to dissolve non-authorised public meetings and demonstrations.

It also banned acts against "peace, public order and offensive to human dignity" and authorised the state telecommunications organ Conatel to suspend radio and television broadcasters.

The decree needed to be approved by Congress, since it curbed personal freedom. And even many of Micheletti`s supporters in the legislature had refused to back it.

The independent Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) had also spoken out against the decree, arguing that it is counterproductive ahead of the scheduled Nov 29 presidential election.

Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), had slammed the decree, saying that the measures constituted "a sort of state of emergency" and would give a free hand to "those who want to carry out more acts of repression".

In a statement that was made public Monday in Washington by the Honduran mission to the OAS, Zelaya said dialogue to solve the Honduran conflict "is only possible and will only be fruitful if it is carried out in an atmosphere of transparency, frankness, tolerance and freedom".

In the statement, Zelaya established four "imperatives" for dialogue: the end of repression, the restoration of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, "the end of harassment" of the Brazilian embassy, and permission for Zelaya himself to host Honduran personalities for talks at the embassy compound.

The OAS is to send to Tegucigalpa Wednesday a foreign ministers mission headed by OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza that will seek to bring the parties in conflict closer to each other. The delegation was to feature the foreign ministers of Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Panama.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim will not be travelling to Tegucigalpa and the South American giant will instead be represented in the mission by its ambassador to the OAS, Ruy Casaes.
The OAS said Saturday that Insulza already travelled to Honduras in secret last week to meet with Micheletti, with a view to "promoting dialogue" with Zelaya.

Micheletti Friday said that the two sides had begun a dialogue. However, Zelaya told DPA in an interview this weekend that Micheletti was being "dishonest".

"They won`t let through the people who want to speak with me," the ousted president complained.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - 10:27

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