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Algerian activist detained in Tunisia en route to France

February 7, 2023 at 10:38 am

Dr Amira Bouraoui, one of the most prominent if not the best-known figure of “Hirak”, is greeted upon her release from prison on July 2, 2020, outside the Kolea Prison near the city of Tipasa, 70km west of the capital Algiers [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images]

Tunisian police detained Algerian political activist Amira Bouraoui as she tried to board a flight to France this morning. Bouraoui now faces the possibility of extradition to Algeria where she faces several criminal charges.

“Dr Amira Bouraoui is being detained by the Tunisian border police at Carthage Tunis Airport,” confirmed lawyer and politician Zubaida Assoul.

Bouraoui had complained that she had not been allowed to travel in recent months, as the airport police told her that there was an instruction issued to prevent her from leaving Algeria. This raises questions about how she got to Tunisia.

The Algerian and Tunisian security services coordinate closely on such issues. Human rights activist Zaki Hannache revealed recently that he was granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tunisia. Hannache is known for relaying the news of Hirak detainees in Algeria. He heard that the Tunisian security services were looking for him, which forced him to go to the UNHCR in order to seek asylum and protection.

He is now in hiding in Tunisia, fearing arrest, but has support from several human rights organisations. They warned that Tunisia may be going down a dangerous human rights path if it proceeds to forcibly return an asylum seeker in cooperation with the Algerian authorities.

READ: Algeria judiciary dissolve oldest human rights association following complaint from Interior Ministry 

In the past two years, Bouraoui has faced several court cases for her publications on religious and political issues, and recently turned to activism at Radio AM, which was closed at the end of December after the arrest of its press director Ehsan Qazi. The Shararqa Court sentenced he in May 2021 to two years in prison on charges of compromising religious knowledge and mocking some prophetic sayings. The same Algerian court sentenced her to two years in prison on charges of insulting the President of the Republic and displaying publications that could harm public order.

Bouraoui was prosecuted after a complaint was filed by a group of lawyers in October 2020 alleging her abuse of Prophet Muhammad and his companions through social media. She later deleted the offending posts from her account.

Gynaecologist Bouraoui is known for her political activity against the fourth term of office of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. She was one of the founders of the Barakat Movement in 2014, which did not succeed in stopping the president from running for a fourth term. She then joined the popular movement that overthrew the late president in February 2019, and was one of the most prominent faces at the forefront of the protest marches.