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Algeria jails protesters over waving Berber flags

Amazigh Berber flag [Bakrim2000/Twitter]
Amazigh Berber flag [Bakrim2000/Twitter]

A court in Algeria yesterday sentenced 21 protesters to six months in jail for “undermining national unity”, local media reported.

The court’s verdict included a six-month suspended prison sentence for protesters arrested for raising a flag representing the country’s Berber minority, Algeria Press Service (APS) said.

Some ten million Berbers live in the east of Algeria. They have long suffered marginalisation. They speak Tamazight which was recognised as an official language alongside Arabic in Algeria in 2016.

Weeks after protests erupted in the country in February, some protesters were seen holding the Berber (Amazigh) flag alongside the national one. Police arrested them and banned them from bearing flags other than the Algerian flag.

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The court postponed the sentencing of 20 other demonstrators facing the same charges until 18 November.

Yesterday, university students organised a rally in the capital to demand the removal of the old regime and carrying out radical change.

The Algerian daily newspaper El Khabar reported that the march “stopped in front of the headquarters of the Bouira district Council in solidarity with those arrested in the popular movement who are now known as ‘Bearers of the Amazigh flag’.”

According to Reuters, “Protesters have rejected the Dec. 12 presidential election, saying it will not be fair as some of the old guards, including interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Nouredine Bedoui, are still in power.” However, “the army has repeatedly vowed transparency for the vote in which five candidates will run, including two former prime ministers.”

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