05/04/2005, 00.00
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Maronite bishops call for new electoral law, Geagea's release

Beirut (AsiaNews) – "We are against the 2000 law and want the 1960 law back," said Lebanon's Maronite Bishops who met this morning in Bkerke. In their view, the 2000 law imposed by the Syrians is not longer valid after their departure.

Meeting under the chairmanship of Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, the Bishops were sorely disappointed that the National Assembly failed to adopt a new electoral law.

In addition, the Bishops called on lawmakers to meet immediately to vote on an amnesty law for the former commander of the Lebanese Forces militia Samir Geagea, who has been in prison since 1994.

They also prayed that God may protect Pope Benedict XVI, "God's gift to our society", urging the faithful to pray to the Mother of God in this month of May, a month dedicated to Our Lady, Queen of Lebanon.

This morning thousands of people from opposition groups rallied in front of the National Assembly demanding Geagea's release; among them, at least 40 Christian, Sunni and Druze lawmakers as well Samir Geagea's wife, Sitrida.

Geagea, 52, has been in jail for murders committed during the country's 15-year civil war (1975-1990), including the assassination of Lebanon's Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987 and Christian political leader Dany Chamoun in 1990. However, many Lebanese political leaders consider Geagea a victim of Syrian machinations.

At the demonstration, participants carried Lebanese flags and large portraits of Geagea, Hariri and Michel Aoun, a former general who is supposed to return this Saturday after 14 years in exile.

In 1990 Aoun tried to oust the Syrians from the country, but the strength of the Syrian army and the lack of international support meant that Aoun's action was doomed to fail, forcing him into exile.

Among the slogans shouted at the rally one said: "Without Geagea, without Aoun, no national unity is possible". (YH)

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See also
Bishops act to end divisions between Maronite political leaders
Schools and universities closed as Sfeir calls on parties to get back to talks
Geagea in Paris for medical check-up and sightseeing
Press release by Maronite Bishops is moderate, clear and just, says Ignatius IV Hazim
Family thanks Cardinal Sfeir for helping in Samir Geagea's release


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