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Lebanon Parliament Approves State of Emergency in Beirut

Lebanon Parliament Approves State of Emergency in Beirut

Thursday, 13 August, 2020 - 09:45
Lebanese members of Parliament attend a legislative session in a theatre hall to allow social distancing amid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in UNESCO Palace building in Beirut, Lebanon April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanese lawmakers approved on Thursday a two-week state of emergency in Beirut declared by the government following the deadly port explosion that has reignited angry street protests.

The state of emergency law will give the military exceptional powers to clamp down on protesters demanding the overthrow of a political elite widely held responsible for the devastating blast, human rights groups said.

The government had already declared a two-week state of emergency on August 5, the day after the blast that killed 171 people and ravaged the heart of the capital.

But as the measure lasts more than eight days, Lebanese law requires that it be approved by parliament, according to human rights watchdog The Legal Agenda.

The state of emergency allows the army to close down assembly points and prohibit gatherings deemed threats to national security, and expands the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.

The army can also raid homes at any time and impose house arrest on anyone engaged in activities considered to threaten security, the watchdog said.

This would give authorities legal cover to crack down on a protest movement that first emerged in October last year demanding deep-seated political reform.

There has been widespread anger against authorities who allowed a large shipment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to rot for years in a warehouse at the Beirut port.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government stepped down on Monday after several ministers said they would quit over the explosion.

Around 10 of parliament's 128 lawmakers have also handed in their resignations.

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