The interim Honduran government on Monday revoked an emergency decree that prohibited large street protests and limited other civil liberties following the return of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
The decree, which resulted in dozens of arrests and the closing of two pro-Zelaya media outlets, “has been completely revoked,” Interim President Roberto Micheletti said at a news conference with U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican.
Mr. Micheletti did not say whether the lifting of the decree would take effect immediately. He had said in a morning television interview it would be formally repealed on Tuesday when the new order is published in the government’s official gazette.
“Let’s see if they end the oppression of the people, or if this is one more trick,” Mr. Zelaya told Venezuela- based television network Telesur.
Honduras’ interim leaders issued the emergency order on September 27 in response to “calls for insurrection” by Mr.Zelaya as the ousted President sought refuge in the Brazilian Embassy after sneaking back into the country. He remains holed up in the embassy with dozens of supporters amid international diplomatic efforts to end the crisis.
The decree empowered police and soldiers to break up public meetings, arrest people without warrants and restrict the news media, with armed troops stationed throughout the capital to enforce the order.
It drew criticism even from judges and congressional leaders who backed Mr. Zelaya’s ouster in a June 28 military-backed coup that was condemned by much of the rest of the world, including the U.S. government and the United Nations. Many complained the decree would disrupt campaigning for the November presidential election they hope will resolve the country’s crisis.
Human rights groups have complained of unjustified arrests and the persecution of peaceful protesters, but Mr. Micheletti defended the measure to reporters as a legitimate response to an organized campaign against the government “led” by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
“We’ve never seen scenes of burning buses and burning businesses like what has happened in recent days,” he said, adding that the decision to impose the decree was “because we learned that they were planning more of this type of conduct and we weren’t going to allow it.”
The main effect of the order was to close down the two main pro-Zelaya media outlets, Radio Globo and Channel 36, and it blocked protest marches for several days. Zelaya supporters eventually ventured out to demonstrate, but in much smaller numbers than before.
While the decree was in force, the government also retook control of a government Agrarian Institute building that had been occupied by protesters. They detained about 55 people and lodged sedition charges against 38, who were still in custody over the weekend.