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Algerian lawyers announce strike for right to counsel

The strikes come amid a growing clampdown on repression in the North African nation [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 September, 2020

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The strikes come amid a growing clampdown on repression in the North African nation, a year and a half since longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit office.
Algeria's bar association said on Monday it would hold a nationwide two-day strike this week to demand "respect for the right to a defence".

In a statement, the National Union of Bar Associations urged lawyers to hold a "general strike... to protest against violations of the right to counsel."

The strikes come amid a growing clampdown on repression in the North African nation, a year and a half since longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit office in the face of the Hirak mass protest movement.

As court cases have piled up against Hirak activists and journalists, as well as corrupt oligarchs close to Bouteflika, lawyers have complained of relentless work and political pressures.

"The right to a defence is a sacred right that cannot be questioned under any circumstances," the bar association said in statement Monday.

The strike is planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

The bar association said it was acting in solidarity with several dozen lawyers who on Sunday held a sit-in outside the capital's main court, vowing to hold a week-long strike to demand an independent judiciary and the right to counsel.

The bar association also criticised the practice of holding trials remotely via video links, saying recent hearings "did not meet the criteria for a fair trial".

Mustapha Bouchachi, a lawyer and Hirak supporter, praised the decision to hold a strike.

But he also said it was "not enough", as lawyers were becoming "alibis for a judiciary in service of the system."

"There can be no independent justice if we don't move towards a true democracy," he said.

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