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The harsh condemnation of a Facebook meme author accentuates the repression in Algeria

2021-01-07T03:31:38.316Z

The country's Human Rights League denounces the regime's siege on the Internet after demonstrations are prohibited due to the pandemic



Algeria is experiencing another turn of the screw in the power struggle against the supporters of

Hirak

, the protest movement that has been demanding true democracy since February 2019.

The repression against the

Hirak

began a year and a half ago with the arrest of several prominent militants.

He followed up with the digital media blocking.

And it was accentuated this past Monday with the sentence of a court in the city of Sétif –283 kilometers east of Algiers– against the 25-year-old activist Walid Kechida, who managed a page of memes, or humorous montages, on Facebook against the power and weight of religion in society.

Kechida had already been in preventive detention since April.

The local press then highlighted that the activist is fatherless and that his mother was ill and would be left alone in the month of Ramadan in the midst of a pandemic.

A month earlier, the Algerian justice jailed 40-year-old independent journalist Khaled Drareni, who stood out for covering the protests exhaustively.

Drareni is still in prison, sentenced to two years in prison, despite the numerous international organizations demanding his release.

The Kechida case, however, has so far had less resonance.

Despite the fact that the Sétif city prosecutor had requested a five-year sentence, his lawyers expected him to be acquitted after spending nine months in jail.

However, the court has sentenced him to three years, for "contempt and offense to the President of the Republic", "violate the precepts of Islam" and "contempt for legal persons."

This is one of the harshest penalties inflicted on

Hirak

supporters

.

Kaci Tansaout, coordinator of the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), indicates from Algiers that, since the start of the protests in February 2019, 2,500 people have been processed.

"Although most were released, there are 86 prisoners of conscience detained," he says.

Others remain free on bail, such as prominent opposition member Karim Tabú, who was released from prison in July after spending 10 months in prison.

“Most of the prisoners are young and have been detained since covid-19 emerged, after the consequent suspension of the mass marches, in March 2020. But there are them of all ages.

The youngest, Yasser Rouibah, is 19 years old.

And the oldest, Mohamed Naili, is 72, ”says Tansaout.

Three hospitalized prisoners

The Chairman of the Committee adds that there are three prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 11 days and were transferred to the hospital yesterday due to the deterioration of their health.

“It is unfortunate that in the middle of 2021 sentences such as that of Walid Kechida are applied.

Most of the prisoners are in jail after posting something on Facebook.

And this comes at a time when the political leaders in power continue to promote a

new

Algeria, ”says Kaci Tansaout.

An Algerian journalist who speaks on condition of anonymity told this newspaper: “The conviction against Walid Kechida has weakened everyone's morale.

It seems that the magistrates don't even realize that it's just about humor.

It is a real drama when a young generation 2.0 faces another who does not understand their language.

A real shipwreck! ”.

The president of Algeria, Abdelmayid Tebún, 75, returned to Algiers on December 30 after spending two months in a hospital in Germany, where he was transferred urgently after becoming infected with covid-19.

Most of the people who control Algerian power are over 65, the retirement age in a country whose average age is 29.

The true strongman of the country, the Chief of the General Staff, General Said Chengrinha, is also 75 years old.

Said Salhi, vice president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, points out from Algiers: “The power has blocked all spaces of expression and political exercise, has prohibited public meetings, peaceful demonstrations and is now attacking the last space what remains for the Algerian people, the virtual space ”.

Salhi believes that the sentence against Kechida confirms that the government remains determined to maintain a roadmap "widely rejected by the people."

Salhi refers to the new Constitution promoted by Tebún and submitted to a referendum in November.

The vote resulted in the highest abstention rate in Algeria's history, 76.3%.

“The power has not yet understood that in the face of a

peaceful

Hirak

that has demonstrated for 20 months, the repression and the sentences only feed the

hogra

, the feeling of exasperation [and humiliation] of the people.

We are living in a very bad time for freedoms.

Journalists, bloggers, artists, activists, ordinary citizens are arrested just for posting a meme or for expressing their opinion ”.

“The regime wants to send a message to young people, to dissuade them from protesting.

Because the authorities are convinced that as soon as the pandemic passes, the

Hirak

will return to the streets.

The economic situation is catastrophic.

Unemployment is very high, the dinar has lost 20% of its value in 2020. The fruit is very expensive and the meat is out of price.

It is difficult for a family with low incomes to feed themselves, ”says an Algerian analyst who asks to hide his name.

The aforementioned analyst adds: “In terms of freedoms we are suffering a regression of 20 years.

It must be borne in mind that even during the black decade, in the terror years of the 1990s, in Algeria there was freedom of expression.

Now, every day, for a year and a half, they summon someone to justice.

Some are fined, others are released provisionally, others are put in jail.

They have found that they can quell protests without actually killing anyone.

And every time there is a condemnation by the European Parliament for the loss of freedom in Algeria, the power toughens the repression to show that it is not afraid of the European Union ”.

The European Parliament passed an emergency resolution on November 26 criticizing the deterioration of human rights in Algeria and calling for the immediate release of journalist Khaled Drareni.

Parliament has not issued a similar resolution regarding Morocco in the last five years, despite the fact that there are also several journalists and dissidents imprisoned, most of them accused of charges of a sexual or economic nature.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2021-01-07

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