Three activists of the popular Hirak protests in Algeria who were on a hunger strike against their pre-trial detention were hospitalized on January 6, Wednesday, following deterioration in their health. The Algerian prisoners’ rights group National Commission for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD) said that the three activists, Mohamed Tadjadit (25), Noureddine Khimoud (25) and Abdelhak Ben Rahmani (38), began their hunger strike on December 27 after they were denied bail by the authorities and their pre-trial detention was extended.
The three face multiple charges including damaging national unity, insulting the president, inciting protests and spreading false news. Tadjadit and Khimoud have been under detention since August last year after they took part in a protest demonstration in capital Algiers. Rahmani, who is extremely popular throughout the country, was placed in detention last October. He is widely known as the “poet of Hirak”, having authored many verses that have been widely shared on social media and are regularly recited in Hirak rallies and demonstrations. He has already served a prison term last year after being accused of “undermining the national interest.”
Meriem Kacimi, the lawyer representing the three activists, in a statement confirmed that their health is being constantly monitored and their medical test results are awaited. It is not yet clear if the three intend to continue their hunger strike.
The Hirak protest movement in Algeria achieved prominence in April 2019 after successfully forcing then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down after more than 20 years in power. It also led to the removal and subsequent arrests and judicial prosecution of officials and ministers under the previous regime. The Hirak movement has continued with its nationwide protests since then, demanding the fulfilment of other important demands such as the removal of the military’s interference in political and civilian affairs and purging of officials from the Bouteflika era who continue to be in positions of power. Urgent social and economic issues such as corruption, unemployment, and other political and administrative reforms also form part of their demands.
As a result, the movement is facing renewed and intensified persecution at the hands of the new Algerian government of recently elected president Abdelmadjid Tebboune. Many Hirak protesters, journalists, lawyers, cartoonists, bloggers, and others have been arrested and detained without charge or trial in a months-long crackdown by the government. Many of them face false charges and are unfairly prosecuted. As per the CNLD, close to 90 activists, journalists, and others are currently being detained by the Algerian authorities for supporting the Hirak movement.