Algerians rally on second anniversary of anti-government protests

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Several thousand Algerians rallied in a northern town, almost two years since the start of the “Hirak” protests which swept former strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power.

Demonstrators brandished Algerian and Berber flags and shouted slogans against the military and current President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in the rally in Kherrata, 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of the capital Algiers.

“A civilian state, not military. Freedom of the press and of expression. An independent judiciary,” read one banner.

It was in Kherrata that major protests first broke out on February 16, 2019, against Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.

The following week, mass rallies spread to Algiers and across the country in a months-long movement to demand sweeping reforms.

Tuesday’s rally was attended by prominent Hirak figures including Karim Tabbou, who was given a one-year suspended sentence in December for “undermining national security”.

Around 70 people are currently in prison over links with the Hirak movement or other peaceful opposition political activity, according to the CNLD prisoners’ support group.

The unprecedented protest movement, which demanded a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, only suspended rallies in March last year as the coronavirus pandemic reached the North African country.

Recent weeks have seen renewed demonstrations in the build-up to the 22nd February anniversary of the first nation-wide protests, particularly in the traditionally restive region of Kabylie.

Hauwa Mustapha

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