Authorities sentenced 31 Hirak protesters to prison terms, ranging from one year to 18 months. One month before the legislative elections, the Algerian Minister of the Interior had asked that the gatherings be declared.
On May 14, the Algerian authorities prevented the 117th Hirak Friday demonstration from being held by carrying out numerous arrests of activists, opponents and journalists in the country. 31 of the arrested demonstrators were sentenced to prison terms, AFP reports.
Of these 31 people, 23 were tried in Sétif (northeast) and eight in Bab El Oued in Algiers, where they were sentenced to “sentences ranging from one year to 18 months in prison”, detailed Saïd Salhi , vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH). The protesters of Sétif are accused of “inciting unarmed assembly” and “non-compliance with administrative measures related to medical confinement”.
Arrested on May 14 in Algiers while she was in the company of a dozen reporters and press photographers, the political journalist of Radio M station, Kenza Khatto, saw her police custody again extended to 24 hours. It will be presented on May 18 before the prosecutor of the Sidi M’hamed court in Algiers, the media said on its website. This police custody was deemed “abusive” by his lawyer while all his colleagues who came to cover the demonstration were released a few hours after their arrest.
The organizers summoned to “declare” the demonstrations
According to the LADDH, a thousand arrests have taken place across the country, including those of opposition party leaders, and at least 127 people are currently imprisoned for acts related to Hirak or individual freedoms, according to the National Committee for the Release of Prisoners.
For its part, Amnesty International called on the authorities on May 17 to “drop the false accusations” leveled against human rights defenders Kaddour Chouicha, Jamila Loukil and Saïd Boudour on the eve of a judicial hearing in Oran (north-west). . “We urge the Algerian authorities […] to guarantee the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly on the eve of parliamentary elections, ”said Amna Guellali, Amnesty Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The Algerian Interior Ministry decided on May 10 to force the organizers of the Hirak marches to “declare” the demonstrations beforehand to the authorities. This renewed tension between the authorities and the demonstrators is taking place as early legislative elections are due to take place on June 12 in the country.
The Hirak is a protest movement born in February 2019 from the rejection of a fifth term of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned shortly after, which did not prevent the demonstrators from gathering weekly in the country. For the most part, the citizens involved in the Hirak are calling for a radical change in the political “system” in place since independence in 1962.