Crackdown in Algeria sparks global solidarity campaign

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By Sheila Amrouche

From Middle East Solidarity magazine, issue 12. Order a print copy or download as a pdf here 

The rising repression in Algeria has sparked an international campaign in defence of political prisoners. Trade unionists, MPs and activists in Spain, France, Portugal, Peru, Brazil, South Africa and Germany gathered outside Algerian embassies in September to condemn the arrest and sentencing of Louisa Hanoune, general secretary of the Workers Party and other political prisoners.

The regime in Algeria has hit back hard at opponents as it tries to contain the mass movement for democracy which erupted earlier this year and is still bringing tens of thousands onto the streets.

On 8th October the 33rd students’ march in Algiers was brutally attacked by police, anti-riot and plain clothes police, with dozens of arrests of students, passers-by and journalists. Most have been released, but some have been charged with “unarmed assembly, disobedience and breach of public order”.

Karim Tabbou, a national leader of the Democratic and Social Union party, is one of the major opposition leaders arrested in September, while Louisa Hanoune, has been condemned to fifteen years in prison in a trial by a military court. Elected members of provincial parliaments, political activists and protesters have been seized by the police for carrying the Amazigh flag on demonstrations.

Over 100 protesters remain in custody, most in Algiers. Some are under investigation for “harming the integrity of the national territory,” which carries sentences of up to 10 years in prison. They include Samira Messouci, elected to the provincial assembly of Tizi-Ouzou, activist in the RCD (Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie), who was arrested on the 21 June demonstration for being in possession of the Berber flag.

Karim Tabbou was arrested on 12 September for “undermining the morale of the troops” of the army, according to the article 75 of the Penal Code. He was arrested without warrant or explanation. Tabbou recently took part in a conference which called for the rejection of the upcoming presidential elections.

Elected members of provincial parliaments, political activists and protesters have been seized by the police

On 30 June police arrested 87-year old Lakhdar Bouregâa, one of the few surviving commanders of Algeria’s war of independence, four days after he said at a public meeting that Algeria’s army is a collection of “militias.” He is being investigated for “weakening the morale of the troops,” which could lead to a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Bouregaa is a founder of the opposition Socialist Forces Front party and was a political prisoner in the 1970s under President Houari Boumedienne.

Louisa Hanoune, general secretary of the PT (Workers Party) since 1990, was arrested on 9 May after being summoned to the military court as a witness during the investigation of two ex-intelligence chiefs as well as Saïd Bouteflika, younger brother of the ousted president.

She was charged with “conspiring against the state and the army” and held in solitary confinement before being sentenced to a fifteen year jail sentence on 24 September.

In a statement, the Workers Party called her trial a “judicial farce riddled with lies. Louisa Hanoune has been condemned in order to terrorise and try to silence all the voices that oppose those in de facto power. The same goes for Lakhdar Bouregâa, Samira Messouci, Samir Benlarbi, Foudil Moumala and dozens of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.”

What you can do:

  • Read our background briefing on Algerian political prisoners here
  • Send a letter of protest to the Algerian embassy in your country, calling for the release of all political prisoners and for an end to attacks on Algerian citizens’ rights to organise and speak out.
  • Put a resolution to your trade union branch calling for action in solidarity with Algerian political prisoners
  • Read more on the background to the movement here and here

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