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Algeria: arrests target protest activists

Thumbnail - Algerian doctor handed jail terms for insulting president
Thumbnail - Algerian doctor handed jail terms for insulting president

Algerian dissident Karim Tabbou, one of the symbols of the pro-democracy Hirak protest movement, was arrested on Wednesday evening in the capital Algiers, Agence France-Presse has reported. The move, said his lawyer Ali Falah Ben Ali, followed a complaint filed against him by the head of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH).

The opposition activist, 47, went before prosecutors yesterday to respond to the complaint filed by Bouzid Lazhari, chairman of the CNDH. Lazhari filed the complaint alleging "insulting, swearing and verbal abuse" and assault during the funeral of another human rights activist, lawyer Ali Yahya Abdel Nour, on Monday at a cemetery in the capital. Tabbou was released on probation by the authorities.

Tabbou, who was imprisoned from September 2019 to July 2020, has been active in the anti-regime protest movement since it emerged in February 2019. His arrest coincided with a crackdown by the authorities on activists, political opposition figures and journalists ahead of the upcoming legislative election.

On Tuesday, the Algerian police prevented students from participating in the weekly demonstrations held in Algiers since the resumption of the Hirak protests in late February. This was the first time that this has happened.

The police arrested dozens of people and raided several Hirak offices, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), which provides assistance to prisoners of conscience. Almost all were released later.

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Kaddour Chouicha, the president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) in Oran, and his wife, journalist and activist Jamila Loukil, were arrested on Wednesday as they left court after the postponement of their appeal in a case that dates back to last year. The CNLD said that Chouicha and Loukil were released on Wednesday evening, but they have to report back to the Oran Police Station. Security forces searched their home and seized computers and telephones.

The house of another detained activist, Hisham Khayyat, the co-founder of Nidaa 22, an independent initiative to establish national dialogue, was also searched on Wednesday in Blida, near the capital. His computer was also confiscated by police.

"We are concerned by the escalation of the repressive practices targeting all voices of the opposition and the Hirak protest movement," said LADDH on Wednesday evening. "We urge the government to stop the harassment and arbitrary arrests of peaceful Hirak activists, political and civil society figures and journalists forthwith."

According to local groups which provide support for prisoners of conscience, there are currently about 65 people in detention awaiting trial in cases related to the protest movement or individual freedoms.

The Hirak protest movement began as a popular rejection of Abdelaziz Bouteflika's candidacy for a fifth presidential term. It has been demanding a radical change in the political system which has been in place since Algerian independence in 1962.

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