Algeria steps up repression against Hirak activists amid COVID-19 lockdown (EuroMed Rights)

The EuroMed Rights NGO has condemned the use by the Algerian authorities of the COVID-19 lockdown as a pretext to continue their crackdown against pro-democracy protesters and Hirak leaders.

In its latest newsletter, the EuroMed Rights watchdog said as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Algeria was increasing early March, the civil society organizations involved in the protest movement halted demonstrations in compliance with containment measures to limit the spread of the disease.

However, since then, the Algerian authorities have continued to target Hirak activists, deplored EuroMed rights defender, saying that more than 100 pro-democracy advocates have been arrested since mid-March.

While more than 11,031 people in Algeria have been affected by coronavirus, many human rights and civil society activists- some of whom were arrested long before the pandemic emerged- remain in prison without knowing the date of their trials.

According to EuroMed Rights, many Hirak activists, journalists and bloggers continue to be summoned by the police. Some are currently behind bars, including Khaled Drareni, a freelance journalist, founder of the Kasbah Tribune website and correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, accused of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “undermining national integrity”.

Walid Kechida, creator of the Facebook page “Hirak mêmes”, is being prosecuted for “insulting a constituent body, insulting the President of the Republic, and insulting the divine entity”. The lawyers following the cases say that none of the charges against them constitute a legitimate offence recognized by international law.

The continued campaign of judicial harassment against activists and the ongoing detention of those arrested during the Hirak protests show the Algerian regime’s intention to muzzle social movements and human rights defenders, said the EuroMed Rights NGO.

EuroMed Rights is a network representing 80 human rights organizations, institutions and defenders in 30 countries. It was founded in 1997, following the 1995 Barcelona Declaration, by civil society organizations dedicated to promoting human rights and democracy within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

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