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Algerian Authorities Sentence 20 Hirak Activists to Prison, Stirring Anger

Algerian Authorities Sentence 20 Hirak Activists to Prison, Stirring Anger

Monday, 24 February, 2020 - 09:00
Protesters in Algiers, Algeria (Reuters file photo)
Algiers - Boualem Goumrassa

An Algiers court sentenced 20 Hirak protest activists to prison in sentences ranging between three months and a year, stirring anger among supporters who called for their release.

The detainees were arrested on January 17 and released two days later, but the police summoned them to appear directly before the judge, charging them with “unauthorized gathering” and “harming national unity.”

The authorities have accused the defendants of participating in Hirak protests, which fall on Fridays and university protests, which fall on Tuesdays. They include top Youth Action Rally (RAJ) officials Kamel Nemmiche and Mekrin Luchadi, who were sentenced to six months.

Authorities had arrested all the leading members of the RAJ, which strongly opposes the government's policies. Its president Abdelouhab Fersaoui is awaiting trial.

RAJ’s former president Hakim Addad was released two weeks ago after serving four months in prison.

Human rights activists and RAJ’s members had protested the court sentences, describing them as “unfair” and called upon President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to fulfill his pledges, referring to his praise of the demonstrators and the popular movement which he said is “blessed.”

Separately, journalists, activists and lawyers, filled a Casablanca courtroom during the trial of prominent journalist Fodil Boumala, who is accused of "attempting to demoralize the army".

Prosecutors have often made such charges against activists over their statements on the military and late army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Boumala, who has been in jail for five months, defended himself, saying his trial is that of the “Algerian people that rejects corruption” and that the battle is between “freedom and tyranny.”

His statement was met with applause in the court. The prosecutor demanded that he be sentenced to a year in prison and lawyers then made their statements. He is expected to be released.

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