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Algeria: activist arrives in France after consular intervention in Tunisia

February 8, 2023 at 11:12 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]

Algerian political activist Amira Bouraoui is in France after receiving consular support from French officials in Tunisia, which she apparently entered from Algeria without going through the official border crossings. As reported yesterday, she was detained in Tunisia en route to France.

According to sources close to Bouraoui, her French lawyer François Zimera praised the “movement of the French authorities” for his client, who holds a French passport and was prohibited by the Algerian government from leaving Algeria.

According to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees in Algeria, the Public Prosecutor in Tunis had Bouraoui released from custody. However, she was arrested again outside the court by individuals in civilian clothing, and was taken again to Carthage International Airport to be deported to Algeria. Her lawyers said that intervention by French consular officials prevented this from happening.

Bouraoui is affiliated with the secular progressive movement in Algeria. Her political opponents are now saying that it is inappropriate for her to hold French citizenship and yet seek to take the lead in the struggle for freedom in Algeria and to criticise those who accuse her of being loyal to foreign states.

However, film director Bashir Drais, a friend of the activist, spoke out in her defence. “She obtained a French passport when she married a French citizen in 2007. There are more than three million Algerians in France who hold French citizenship, of whom many are players and coaches of the Algerian national football team that won the 2019 African Nations Cup and defeated Egypt in Omdurman.”

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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 her 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.

Gynaecologist Bouraoui is known for her political activity against the fourth term of office of former Algerian 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.