As if the use of excessive violence on the part of the security services in Algeria when arresting peaceful protesters was not enough, the authorities now seek to stiffen the penalties incurred by prosecuting them on terrorism and conspiracy charges.
The increasing violence at the risk of causing a tragedy and civilian casualties and the new maneuvers against the Hirak protesters are deeply worrying many international NGOs and begin to raise many questions about the real intentions of the Algerian regime, which seems at bay.
One of the victims of this police violence made a damning testimony of what he suffered in person when he has been violently arrested by five police officers while he was covering a Hirak demonstration in Oran on April 23.
Journalist Said Boudour, who is member of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), told Amnesty International: “They kicked us, hit us with their fists and batons, slapped us and insulted us. I still have marks near my mouth where they hit me. I had blood on my face.”
Arrested without a warrant, he was held in police custody until April 29 on accusations of terrorism and conspiracy against the state.
Since the start of the Hirak movement in 2019, Said Boudour has been arrested three times and prosecuted on charges including “offending public bodies” and “defamation”. However, at his latest arrest, the charges are much more serious: terrorism and conspiracy against the state.
Actually, this is the first time that terrorism-related charges are being used against journalists and human rights defenders in the Hirak movement, commented AI.
Some local media, describing the situation as totally burlesque, noted that from being an assaulted, abused and beaten victim, Said Boudour is now accused of extremely serious acts against national security and of terrorism. He is now under judicial supervision and he remains closely watched by the security services.
AI also brought the case of university professor Kaddour Chouicha and journalist Jamila Loukil as well as 12 other Hirak activists who all face, the NGO said, the death penalty or lengthy prison sentences based on trumped-up charges of “participation in a terrorist organization”, “recruiting mercenaries on behalf of a foreign power”, and “conspiracy against the state” in connection to their participation in peaceful protests.
The Algerian authorities must immediately drop all charges against these human rights defenders, the NGO said ahead of their court hearing this May 18, denouncing “a worrying new trend” of Algerian authorities using terrorism-related legislation to repress the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression ahead of the legislative elections scheduled for June 12.
Algeria’s authorities have stepped up their crackdown against Hirak activists in recent days with at least 44 protesters detained and prosecuted for participating in peaceful demonstrations on May 14.
according to the Algerian National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), at least 124 activists are currently in detention in connection with their participation in the peaceful protests.
The Hirak movement, started in February 2019, is calling for radical political change in Algeria and for putting an end to the behind-the-scenes military rule.