Libya lifts ban on religious parties as voters register

Libyan woman registering to vote Libya's voters register for elections in which religious parties will be allowed to take part

Libya's National Transitional Council has lifted a ban on religious parties taking part in June's election.

At the same time the NTC announced a clampdown on Libyans loyal to the country's former leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Public praise of Gaddafi or his regime will now be an offence.

The election will choose members of a new General National Congress.

Registration centres opened throughout the country on 1 May and voters have two weeks in which to register.

Last month the NTC announced a ban on parties organised along religious, regional, tribal or ethnic lines.

Islamists allowed

It said then that the electoral law was designed to preserve "national unity".

But it published a new version of the law on 2 May that made no mention of the controversial measure.

Islamists and parties campaigning for a greater degree of regional autonomy in Libya will now be able to contest the elections.

The NTC has promised to hold elections by the end of June, but Western diplomats say this may slip until later in the summer.

They will be the first to be held in the country for decades.

Immunity

As part of the same raft of measures introduced by the NTC, immunity has been granted to former rebels who fought to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power.

"There is no punishment for acts made necessary by the February 17 revolution," it said.

That date marks the start of the 2011 uprising that led to the ousting of Col Gaddafi.

Immunity would cover "military, security or civilian acts undertaken by revolutionaries with the aim of ensuring the revolution's success", it said in a statement.

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