The Ministry of Justice in Algeria announced on Saturday that 59 prisoners of conscience have been released following a presidential pardon, the Algerian News Agency has reported. The pardon was issued to commemorate Martyrs' Day and the second anniversary of public protests organised by the popular Hirak Movement. Thousands rallied in the country on the protest anniversary.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has returned recently from Germany where he underwent treatment for Covid-19 related health complications. His pardon for the Hirak detainees is part of an initiative to ease the tension on the streets since the demonstrations erupted in February 2019.
The presidency said at the time that a number of "perpetrators of crimes related to information and communication technology" would benefit from the pardon. In at least 90 per cent of cases, though, prosecutions against the detainees were based on their political views expressed on social media criticising the authorities.
Algeria has witnessed massive demonstrations since last Monday despite the ban on gatherings in public places as part of the measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. The Hirak Movement continues to demand the overthrow of the entire political system that has ruled the country since its independence from France in 1962.