In Algeria, wave of releases before the two years of Hirak

Free. After almost a year of detention, and at the end of a long day of waiting for his relatives and supporters gathered in front of the Koléa prison, west of Algiers, Khaled Drareni, 40 years old, sanitary mask on his face, appeared, Friday, February 19, still so determined.

→ READ. In Algeria, year 1 of the “hirak”

In a serenity contrasting with the ambient excitement, the 40-year-old journalist, symbol of the struggle for freedom of expression in his country, thanked “All those who have supported and who have supported the prisoners of conscience because your support is essential for all of us and it is the proof of our innocence”. Arrested in March 2020 while covering a demonstration, sentenced in September to two years in prison for “Incitement to unarmed assembly” and “Attack on national unity”, the founding director of the Casbah Tribune news site – blocked since December – and correspondent in Algeria for TV5 Monde and Reporters Without Borders, meant that the presidential pardon he had just received, like 32 others, did not change anything.

Imminent government reshuffle

Born in the street two years ago, on February 22, 2019, the Hirak, a large protest movement that brought down former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 2019 and calls for the fall of the entire regime, continues. President Tebboune’s appeasement gestures therefore do not resolve anything. Thursday, February 18, in a televised speech aimed at containing the anger of Hirak, the head of state tried to regain control. Still tired after two long absences in Germany to recover from a severe episode of Covid-19, contracted at the end of October, the Algerian president announced, in addition to several dozen upcoming releases, the dissolution of the National Assembly and an imminent reshuffle of the government.

“The soothing effect sought by these measures will not be felt if there are still detainees at Hirak on February 22,” immediately warned Samia Baris, of “Nida 22”, a space for debate and initiatives created by Hirak actors. Friday, February 19, 73 prisoners of conscience were listed in the country before the first 33 releases. Will the Algerians also remain determined, after these, to invade the streets, this Monday, in the name of the demands of ” radical change “ expressed since February 2019? For Imad Boubekri, founder of the Algerian Last Minute website (DMA), these requests remain unfulfilled. “The regime is autistically pursuing its unilateral roadmap with these early legislative elections, he believes. He will try to build a parliamentary majority from odds and ends to Abdelmadjid Tebboune. But all this is happening in a vacuum internal to the system ”.

“The case” Walid Nekkiche

Thinking of having won the stop of popular demonstrations, at the beginning of March 2020, due to the pandemic and the restrictions imposed, Abdelmadjid Tebboune then tried to push “the advantage” by adopting a repressive arsenal which muzzled political expression on social networks. Dozens of activists have been jailed for their Facebook posts, pressure on free media has increased with the incarceration of Khaled Drareni, and several online news sites have been censored across the country, for example. elsewhere economically down, deprived of investment and with no prospect of recovery.

This security drift by the regime has just turned against it with the Walid Nekkiche “affair”. This 25-year-old student who participated in the Hirak was sentenced to six months in prison. On February 2, he denounced during his hearing the acts of torture and rape of which he was the victim while in custody by the services of the ISD, the political police (military security). The indignation is such in the country, since, that the young man was released, and that a judicial investigation was opened by the military court of Blida. An extremely rare fact.

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Two years of popular protest

February 22, 2019: Thousands of Algerians demonstrate against the announcement by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, weakened since a stroke in 2013, that he is running for a 5th term.

2 avril : resignation of Bouteflika. On the 9th, Abdelkader Bensalah becomes interim president.

June 2: the Constitutional Council cancels the presidential election scheduled for July.

December 12, 2019: Abdelmadjid Tebboune wins the massively boycotted presidential election.

20 mars 2020 : anti-Covid measures, the streets of Algiers are empty.

1is november: the ” Yes “ wins in the referendum on the constitutional revision, with a record abstention rate.

February 16, 2021: demonstration in Kherrata, where the first march took place two years earlier.

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