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Six Algerian Berber activists accused of ‘damaging state security’ acquitted

Algerian students can be seen protesting against the proposal to curb Berber language development

Six Algerian Mozabite Berber activists who were accused of attempting to overthrow the Algerian government and threaten state security were acquitted by a court yesterday, according to their lawyer.

“Justice has been done in this trial that should never have taken place,” the lawyer, Mustapha Bouchachi, told AFP from the city of Ghardaia, near the capital Algiers, where the trial was being held.

The six defendants were part of a mediation group created to help stop the intercommunal tension in the Ghardaia between the Mozabites and Arabs that has left around 35 dead since 2013.

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The men were accused of administrating two Facebook pages which contained “hatred” posts “damaging” to state security, a charge they denied.

Kamel Eddine Fekhar, a leading advocate of Mozabite rights, was arrested in 2015 during a peak in violence during protests, and was released two years later after serving time for public order offences.

The Ghardaia region has seen a number of protests over the last few years due to the increasing unemployment rate and lack of opportunities. The Berbers accuse the Arabs of benefiting from preferential treatment from the government, including better job and housing opportunities. In turn, the Arabs accuse the Berbers, generally perceived as wealthier given the investments of their kinsmen living abroad, of hindering poorer Arabs’ integration within their exclusive social structures.