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Defiant Algerian protesters rally despite spate of arrests

Algerian demonstrators have kept up weekly protests since the fall of Bouteflika [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 June, 2019

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Demonstrators brandished the Algerian flag on Friday, keeping up their push for a political overhaul despite a spate of arrests ahead of the latest weekly rally.

Huge numbers of Algerians protested in the capital on Friday, keeping up their push for a political overhaul despite a spate of arrests ahead of the latest weekly rally.

Demonstrators brandished the Algerian flag that has been a mainstay of the protests, but some also carried the Berber colours despite a ban on the minority's flag imposed this week by army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

"No to regionalism, we are all brothers," the protesters chanted in central Algiers.

Police earlier detained dozens of demonstrators, especially those carrying the Berber colours, from around the capital's main post office, the epicentre of demonstrations since they first broke out in February.

On previous Fridays in recent weeks, those detained have been released at the end of the day.

In the latest mass rally there were skirmishes between protesters and the police, who fired tear gas at demonstrators.

Algerians have been holding huge protests since ailing leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced plans to seek a fifth term in office.

The veteran leader resigned in April as the pressure against him to quit mounted from all sides, hours after close ally Gaid Salah demanded impeachment proceedings against him.

In a speech on Tuesday, Salah contended that those who oppose the army were "enemies of Algeria", resisting calls by the protest movement and an association of trade unions for a maximum one-year political transition overseen by new and independent interim institutions.

He warned that any political transition outside the existing constitutional order was tantamount to suppressing "all state institutions... and the destruction of the foundations" of the state.

Although a wave of anti-corruption investigations have been launched, demonstrators have kept up calls for the entire regime surrounding Bouteflika to quit.

"Gaid Salah is scared of the (proposed) transition because he would not be able to control everything", protester Salim Hassani said in Algiers.

Another demonstrator, Ahmed Meshdall, said "it is not in the interests of Algerians to destroy the institutions".

"A transition provides a path to elections without the mafia" currently in power, he added.

Media blackout

Meanwhile, two independent news websites were blocked in Algeria earlier this week amid continuing anti-government protests, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on Monday.

The two news sites, Tout Sur L’Algérie and Algérie Part have been inaccessible since 12 June. Several social media platforms were also blocked in the country as secondary school exams started on Sunday, the CPJ said.

Lounes Guemache, the director of Tout Sur L’Algérie said that the website had become inaccessible on internet services provided by the state-owned telecommunications provider Algérie Telecom, and that the site's IP address had been deliberately blocked. 

Abderrahmane Drizi, who works for Algérie Part said that that website was blocked on the same day.

CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Delgado said: "It is troubling that connections to Tout Sur l'Algérie and Algérie Part'swebsites remain disrupted at a time when online news outlets are most needed. Internet censorship is not acceptable at any time, and certainly not during civil unrest."

Two former prime ministers last week joined a long list of prominent politicians and businessmen who have been detained as part of the graft investigations.

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