Amnesty condemns Algeria arrests ahead of elections
Amnesty International has condemned the arrest of two journalists and an opposition leader in Algeria, ahead of today’s legislative elections.
Journalists Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi and the high-profile opposition leader Karim Tabbou, were taken into detention on 10 June.
"These arrests mark a chilling escalation in the Algerian authorities’ clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression and association ahead of the elections," said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
The men were arrested separately at night and were transferred to the Antar security centre for interrogation.
The arrest of the three men represents a continuation of the arrest campaign that has targeted people connected with the countries Hirak protest movement. More than 200 people are currently being detained.
A day before the legislative #elections, #Algeria's authorities switched the gear of repression & blatantly arrested emblematic #opposition figure Karim Tabbou and prominent journalists @khaleddrareni & Ihsen El Kadi. RT to call on president @TebbouneAmadjid to release them now! pic.twitter.com/AxUHuYtjQo— Amnesty MENA (@AmnestyMENA) June 11, 2021
"It is highly likely that the three men have been targeted as retribution for their ties to the Hirak protest movement, which has called for radical political change in Algeria through peaceful means," said Guellali.
"Their detention follows an alarming pattern in recent months of arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of journalists and activists calling for social justice and political reforms," she continued.
Both Drareni and Kadi have been persecuted by the Algerian authorities in the past.
Drareni was sentenced to three years in prison last August, for his coverage of the Hirak protest movement. Following an appeal, it was reduced to two years and in February his was released from prison, and it was announced that his case would be sent to the Supreme Court for a retrial.
Kadi, who is the director of Maghreb Emergent and RadioMPost, has previously been accused of “defamation and insult” of Algeria’s president. Authorities in the country have also blocked his media outlets.
Tabbou was sentenced to one year in prison in March last year, for making critical comments of the army’s role in politics in videos that were published on his party’s Facebook page.
All three of the men have connection with the Hirak movement, which began in 2019. Protesters first opposed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s attempt to run for a fifth term, before the demands expanded to include calls for the departure of the ruling elite and for the country to embrace more democratic governance.
Local human rights groups and activists believe that authorities are currently hold 223 people connected with the Hirak protest movement.
“Unless the authorities have clear grounds to justify these arrests, the three men must be immediately released,” said Guellali.