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Algeria: Authorities Clampdown on Hirak Protests, Arrest Dozens

Algeria: Authorities Clampdown on Hirak Protests, Arrest Dozens

Friday, 22 November, 2019 - 09:00
A protester in Algiers holds a sign that reads: 'My voice is sacred just like my dignity and my freedom' (AFP)

Algerian security forces intensified its arrests campaign after mass demonstrations flooded the streets on Wednesday in protest against presidential elections scheduled for December 12, and presented dozens to the prosecution after a turbulent night in Algiers.


Protesters no longer limited themselves to organizing day demonstrations, with Friday's popular movement and Tuesday's demonstrations of university students, and are now holding night marches putting more pressure on the security forces.


In response, security forces do not hesitate to arrest people whenever it seems that a group of people is gathering or forming an assembly anywhere in the country.


Prosecutors in the Bab el-Oued Court questioned 29 demonstrators who were calling for canceling the elections. Later that night, 20 detainees were released.


In Tiaret, west of Algeria, 25 people were arrested for participating in a protest against Ali Benflis, a presidential candidate who organized a rally in the city center.


In addition, the Tlemcen court convicted 15 protesters to 18 months imprisonment for protesting Benflis’ arrival to their city during his elections campaign.


In a statement on Thursday, Amnesty International expressed its deep concern over the climate of repression and restrictions on freedom of expression.


The organization’s office in Algeria described the arrests as “arbitrary” and limits constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. It stressed that respect for these rights is crucial in any electoral process, adding that opposers of the elections or government policies must be given the opportunity to express their views without fear of reprisals or repression.


Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, criticized protesters opposing the elections and the campaigns of the five candidates.


He said in a letter published by the Ministry of Defense that the elections are the only solution in the circumstances that Algeria is going through, adding that it has become clear who wants the country to emerge from these situations, and who wants it to fall and face serious and insecure consequences.


Salah has sharply criticized protests against the elections, describing them on several occasions as “remnants” and “gangs”, meaning that they belong to former officials of the former regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, most of which are in prison.


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