Algeria: Over 100 students violently arrested during pro-democracy protest

KONFRONTASI -  The Algerian judiciary has multiplied its attacks against journalists and pro-democracy activists, for things as simple as publications on Facebook. The crackdown has further been hardened earlier today, Tuesday, October 8th, when over 100 students were violently arrested as the police tried to abort the large weekly students protest.

The police proceeded to the indiscriminate use of violence, including against elderly people and children who were accompanying the students in their march, according to ground reports received by the Algiers Herald. From the evidence gathered by our reporter on the ground, one can see the police blatantly provoking the peaceful demonstrators, snatching many of them for no particular reason and chasing the demonstrators down the city’s streets. An elderly woman is assisted by our reporter as she struggled to breath, she had been hit with a baton to the head.

Hundreds are incarcerated in Algeria according to human rights organizations. Arbitrariness, kidnappings, expeditious trials, and remand in custody are now commonplace practices under the military dictatorship embodied by Ahmed Gaid Salah and his entourage.

“Unquestionably, on the issue of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, we live a period worse than that experienced under the state of siege. The proponents of power have their security reflexes but do not realize that this scarecrow is little mobilising in situations of internal crisis, the nature of the crisis is purely political and its solution is necessarily a political one too”, said Abdelaziz Rahabi, a political figure, in an interview granted to a national media.Journalists haven’t been spared either by the increase in repression. Freelance journalist and activist of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), Saïd Boudour appeared Monday, 7th October before the Court of Oran “for a writing on Facebook”, reported LADDH (Algerian League of Human Rights) and the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD), which advocates for the release of “political prisoners” arrested since the beginning of the regime’s crackdown on the unprecedented pro-democracy movement.

He was provisionally released later in the day.Moreover, five activists of the Rassemblement Action Jeunesse (RAJ) were placed on remand on Sunday, Abdelouahab Fersaoui told the AFP on Monday, president of this leading citizen association in the pro-democracy movement, a movement that started on the 22nd February when Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fifth term.They are charged with “inciting assembly” and “undermining the integrity and unity of the territory”, punishable by 10 years in prison, “on the basis of Facebook publications”. But “for the lawyers, the file is empty (…) it is a purely political indictment”.

According to one of their lawyers, Mr. Abdelhak Mellah, the five activists were arrested Friday in a cafe by plain-clothed secret police officers, after the 33rd consecutive Friday demonstration that saw millions of Algerians walk to demand an end to military rule and reject the presidential election scheduled by the army.

“They are accused of having participated in a demonstration and after ‘search’ of their phones, were found with ‘subversive videos’ which are only videos of the demonstrations”, continued the lawyer, specifying having boycotted the first audience because a copy of the file was not made available to the defence attorneys”.

Saïd Salhi, vice president of LADDH, was equally concerned by an illegitimate judiciary at the service of a repressive apparatus, “justice distributes the charges indiscriminately, Saïd Salhi denounced prosecutions “on the basis of interpretations”.

The prosecutor’s office of Algiers denied on Sunday the very existence of political detainees in a statement, it had stated “no political detainee is incarcerated” in its jurisdiction, despite clear evidence showing the contrary.

Thursday, Sofiane Benyounes, founder of Facebook group “Algeria Debout”, very active in the pro-democracy movement, was also summoned by the police for undisclosed motives.

Responsible for an unapproved opposition party and figure of “Hirak”, Karim Tabbou was charged late September with “weakening national unity and incitement to violence” and imprisoned for publications he had posted on Facebook. Other activists like Fodil Boumala are also detained. Former officer of the NLA, the commander Lakhdar Bouregaâ (86 years old) is detained for having criticised the army. He has now started a hunger strike to protest the arbitrary detention of pro-democracy activists.

On Monday, the “Forces pour l’alternative démocratique”, a coalition of parties and associations calling for a political transition in Algeria, saw in these recent arrests a “political arbitrariness” that “signals the refusal of any democratic change by those in power”.

The Algerian regime, running out of options, increasingly appears to seek to intimidate the population, in particular in Algiers, it is hoping to kill off the pro-democracy movement before the election scheduled by the army for the 12th December 2019, an election rejected by the majority of Algerians.

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