In a gesture marking the 59th year since the end of colonial rule in Algeria, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Monday ordered the release of 18 youths imprisoned for their roles in the Hirak protest movement and suggested that more releases will come.
However, it appeared unlikely that all of the approximately 300 prisoners jailed for their alleged actions linked to this North African nation’s pro-democracy movement would be set free.
In a message issued Sunday, the eve of Algeria’s independence in 1962 from France after a 7-year war, Tebboune referred to the Hirak movement as a “blessed authentic” one but said it has become a subversive force.
He and other officials have for months reiterated that the movement has been infiltrated by groups or individuals seeking to harm Algeria.
The arrests of protesters, along with new rules governing marches, have ended weekly peaceful demonstrations that helped push former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in 2019 after two decades in power.
“The Algerian people … can beat back the intentions of suspect groups and their manoeuvers aimed at attacking the security and stability of the country,” Tebboune’s message to the nation said.
Authorities have put two groups on a new anti-terror list: Rachad, whose leaders are in Europe, and MAK, a separatist movement in Kabylie, home of Berbers. Others on the radar include a small political party, the Democratic and Social Movement, heir of Algeria’s Communist Party.
Its leader, Fethi Gheras, was arrested last week at his home by plainclothes police officers for allegedly spreading information that could harm the stability of the nation and for offending Algeria’s president. The arrest was widely denounced.
Algeria, meanwhile, awaits the announcement of a new government after legislative elections that were a key pillar in Tebboune’s bid to fashion a “new Algeria.” On Wednesday, he named the finance minister in the outgoing government, Aïmene Benabderrahmane, as prime minister. An economist, he is tasked with economic reforms to pull Algeria out of a deep crisis.
The National Liberation Front, the party that had ruled alone for three decades, came in first in the June 12 legislative elections that were marked by a record abstention rate. Independent candidates came in second.