Algeria to debate scrapping emergency powers

(Reuters) – Pro-government members of Algeria’s parliament have proposed lifting a 19-year-old state of emergency, a sign the authorities may consider scrapping a measure opponents say is used to stifle political freedom.

Opposition groups inspired by protests in Tunisia and Egypt have made the repeal of the state of emergency one of their main demands and some commentators say the government may make concessions to its opponents to avert unrest.

The government has said it needs the emergency powers to fight Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda. The violence has abated in the past few years, sparking public debate about whether the powers are still justified.

Trade unionists, opposition parties and civil society groups are planning a march in the capital on Feb. 12 to seek an end to emergency rule and greater democracy. Officials say the protest is illegal.

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