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Algeria used 'repressive tactics' during Hirak protests: Amnesty International Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Algeria used 'repressive tactics' during Hirak protests: Amnesty International

Thousands of Algerians have walked peacefully on Monday [GETTY]

Date of publication: 22 February, 2021

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Dozens of Algerian protesters, journalists, and activists have been arrested, wrongfully prosecuted, and sometimes tortured.

Algerian authorities arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted dozens of protesters, journalists, and activists over the past two-years for taking part in peaceful demonstrations and expressing political opinions on social media, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Two years after the beginning of Hirak - an unprecedented popular protest movement in Algeria that started on 16 February 2019 - Amnesty International inverviewed 73 people who were arrested during this period and reported intrusive phone searches, torture, or mistreatment.

Some were given lengthy jail sentences with prosecutions based on vague prosecutions and some fired from their jobs.

"Amnesty International's findings are evidence of a deliberate strategy to crush dissent by the Algerian authorities that give the lie to the authorities' promises of upholding human rights," Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa Amna Guellali said in the statement.

"These are the actions of a government intent on censuring its people for peaceful protest and expressing critical views on social media. Such repressive tactics have no place in a rights-respecting society."

At least 37 "prisoners of opinion" were released on 19 and 20 February by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune after a pardon on 18 February, according to the local watchdog National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees, but 31 remain behind bars.

"Many of those pardoned by President Tebboune in recent days were peaceful activists who were exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and should never have been detained in the first place," Guellali said.

Among those freed was Khaled Drareni, TV5 Monde channel correspondent sentenced to two years of prison last September, activist Rachid Nekkaz who still hasn't be tried, and Dalila Touat, spokesperson for the unemployed in Mostaganem.

Amnesty International requested that Algerian authorities immediately release and grant reparations to all those detained during that time.

"We also call on the authorities to amend or repeal provisions in Algerian law that violate the rights to freedom of expression, online or offline, and peaceful assembly," Guellali added. 

During his 18 February speech, Tebboune also promised a cabinet reshuffle within "48 hours", the dissolution of the National Assembly, and the organisation of early legislative elections by the end of the year.

The Hirak had pushed former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down after two decades in power, but protesters continue to demand the dismantling of the whole political system set up at the independence of Algeria in 1962.

On Monday, thousands of Algerians held peaceful gatherings in the capital and other cities of the country in order to mark the second anniversary of the movement.

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