Algeria frees over 100 involved with protest movement

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Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune at a press conference in Algiers on December 13, 2019. (Photo by Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Algerian President Abdemadjid Tebboune on Wednesday ordered the release of 101 detainees held for calling for or taking part in protests as part of the Hirak protest movement, according to a presidential statement.

President Tebboune “decreed a pardon for 30 detainees sentenced definitively in cases of assembly and disturbing public order,” the statement said.

The Head of State “also decreed additional clemency measures in favour of 71 young prisoners convicted of the same acts who will be released to join their families, as of Wednesday evening”, the statement added.

The mass release follows other measures that coincided with Independence Day on July 5.

On July 4, President Tebboune agreed to release 18 young Hirak detainees, a traditional clemency measure on the eve of the independence anniversary celebrations.

The majority of them were young people arrested in the weeks leading up to legislative elections on June 12.

Before Wednesday’s announcement, more than 300 people were in prison for acts related to Hirak and/or individual freedoms, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD).

The June 12 elections were marked by record abstentionism amid boycott calls by the Hirak mass protest movement.

The poll was won by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which ruled Algeria for decades under a one-party system following its 1962 independence from France.

Former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after mass Hirak protests against his rule in 2019.

The movement continued to stage rallies demanding deep reforms until they were snuffed out by the coronavirus pandemic, and a revived movement has faced an intensified government crackdown in recent months.

Algeria’s new government, led by Prime Minister Aimene Benabderahmane faces huge challenges as the country is roiled by social and economic crises exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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