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Algerian dissident calls for engagement in 'real' political process

Karim Tabbou in Algiers, Algeria on 2 July 2020 [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP/Getty Images]
Prominent Algerian dissident Karim Tabbou in Algiers, Algeria on 2 July 2020 [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP/Getty Images]

A prominent Algerian dissident called on Monday for the government in Algiers to engage in a "real political process", local media have reported. Karim Tabou also called for the release of his fellow protesters still detained by the authorities.

"The best way to enjoy the spring is to set all birds free out of the cages," Tabou told Berber TV, his first interview since his own release last week. "The authorities want to encage us, this is the trap. They will never be bothered as long as people sing in cages." He said that the cages should be broken so that the "real spring" can come.

Last Thursday, an Algerian court ordered Tabou's temporary release after nine months in detention. Three other activists were also released in what is seen as an effort to pacify protesters in the run-up to Algerian Independence Day.

"The prison is a factory that converts anger into political energy," explained Tabou. "When you find yourself humiliated and trapped in a two-square-metre cage, you have time to think. Progress toward a real political process that allows for moving forward… is a necessity."

The activist said that Algerians need to remain "united, peaceful, determined, civilised and organized" and stressed that "nothing can make us abandon our principles."

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Tabou was detained last September, and was given a one-year prison sentence on 24 March. He had been charged with "jeopardising the unity of the nation". A second case is pending, where he faces a charge of "incapacitating the spirit of the army". This trial has been postponed several times, due to measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. A provisional date has now been set for 14 September.

The 46-year-old founder of the Social and Democratic Union Party has become perhaps the most popular figure in the anti-regime protest movement. He has participated in all of the demonstrations since the start of the movement on 22 February last year. Less than six weeks later, its weekly protests succeeded in putting pressure on the then President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down.

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