Police on Monday shut down a private Algerian television station after it aired an interview in which a former insurgent leader trying to set up a political party harshly cautioned President Abdelaziz Bouteflika not to stand in his way.
Police forced the 171 staff to leave El Watan TV. The station is one of numerous private efforts running without official authorization. It has no connection with the French-language newspaper El Watan.
The Communications Ministry noted the station wasn’t formally approved and said it had aired “subversive content attacking the symbols of state.”
Madani Mezrag, founder of the Islamic Salvation Army, the armed wing of the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front party, or FIS, has recently said in TV interviews he wants to start his own political party.
The Algerian president nixed the plan in a public message Sept. 28 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, which allows some repentant insurgents to lay down their arms.
Mezrag responded boldly in the Oct. 4 interview on El Watan TV.
“If he doesn’t rethink his position, he will hear from me things he has never heard before,” Mezrag said.
Mezrag’s Islamic Salvation Army was formed during the North African nation’s “black decade” in the 1990s, triggered by a ban on the FIS which was poised to win legislative elections. Ensuing violence between security forces and Islamic insurgents left an estimated 200,000 people dead.
Mezrag had cut a cease-fire deal with Algerian authorities in 1997 in which his group laid down arms. The deal forbids Mezrag from taking up politics. But the former fighter is determined.
“The man who gives me orders hasn’t yet been born.” Mezrag continued on El Watan TV