Amira Bouraoui, a prominent face of the Hirak movement in Algeria and a fierce critic of the government, was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison on June 22, Monday.
She has been found guilty by a court on six counts including “insulting president Abdelmajid Tebboune”, “insulting Islam”, “incitement to violate lockdown” and “publishing “fake news.”
Bouraoui was arrested from her home on Wednesday for her Facebook post where she calls for the resumption of the weekly Hirak protests. She was previously associated with the Barakat (That’s Enough!) movement that fought for political reforms and the inclusion of Berber minorities in the Algerian mainstream. The 44-years-old is a gynecologist by profession.
Bouraoui’s lawyer, Mustapha Bouchachi, expressed his disappointment with the judgement and said that they will appeal against it in the higher courts. He also warned the government against such oppressive measures saying, “It’s not the best way to open up towards society, activists and this peaceful revolution [Hirak],” Al-Jazeera reported.
The Hirak protests acquired the form of mass movement in February 2019, after thousands came out on to the streets to oppose then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid to become president for the fifth time. He finally resigned in April 2019. The weekly protests have since been going on except during most of the lockdown period. The protesters are demanding an overhaul of the Algerian political system which has been in existence since liberation from France in 1962.
In the last couple of weeks, several activists of the Hirak movement were arrested by the Algerian authorities in anticipation of the resumption of the weekly protests. Several activists have blamed the government for using the lockdown to persecute its critics. Talking to Middle East Online, Said Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, said, “The authorities have taken advantage of the lull to arrest the maximum number of activists.”
On Friday, hundreds turned out to resume the weekly protests. The police and security persons used force and arrested more than 500 of them. Though most of them were released later, a large number were sent to jail.