Security forces double pressure on Hirak militants, dozens of arrests ahead of June vote in Algeria

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For some weeks the Algerian police and military have started a new campaign of arrests of political opponents. Dissident Karim Tabbou, a very important figure in the pro-democracy movement of the “Hirak” movement, was arrested on Wednesday evening.

Tabbou had been summoned to a police station to respond to a complaint filed against him by Bouzid Lazhari, president of the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), a state body close to the regime’s positions, said his lawyer Ali Falah Ben Ali.

The opponent activist, 47, went before prosecutors on Thursday to respond to the charge listed by Bouzid Lazhari, chairman of the CNDH, accusing the Hirak representative of “insulting, swearing and verbal abuse”. Tabbou has also to answer of the alleged assault during the funeral of another human rights activist, lawyer Ali Yahya Abdel Nour, on Monday at a cemetery in the capital.

The activist was freed on probation by the authorities. He was imprisoned from September 2019 to July 2020, has been active in the anti-regime protest movement since early February 2019. His detention matched with a crackdown by the judicial authorities on activists, political opposition personalities, and journalists ahead of the upcoming legislative election.

Two days ago, the Algerian police prevented students from engaging in the weekly demonstrations held in Algiers since the resumption of the Hirak demonstrations in late February. This was the first time that the demonstration was interrupted.

The police caught dozens of people and raided several Hirak agencies, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), which assists prisoners of conscience. Almost all the detainees were freed later. Kaddour Chouicha, the president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) in Oran, and his wife, the journalist and activist Jamila Lukoil, were detained on Wednesday as they fled court after the postponement of their appeal in a case that begins last year.

The CNLD stated that Chouicha and Lukoil were released on Wednesday evening, but they have to report back to the Oran Police Station. Security forces seized computers and telephones from their house. The residence of another arrested activist, Hisham Khayyat, the co-founder of Nidaa 22, an independent action to establish national dialogue, was also examined on Wednesday in Blida, a few kilometers from the capital. His PC was also confiscated by police.

Laddh expressed concern for the repressive practices escalation that us targeting all voices of the opposition and the Hirak protest movement.  “We urge the government to stop the harassment and arbitrary arrests of peaceful Hirak activists, political and civil society figures and journalists forthwith.”  He urged on Wednesday. According to local and international NGOs, there are currently about sixty-five people in custody awaiting trial in cases related to the protest movement.

The Hirak demonstration movement began as a popular refusal of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s candidacy for a fifth presidential term. Algerian youth has been demanding a radical change in the political system which has been in place the country’s independence from France, obtained in 1962.

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