Algerian opposition politician and head of the leftist Democratic and Social Movement Party (MDS) Fethi Ghares was arrested by the police. He has been arrested on multiple charges, including for allegedly “insulting the president” and “dissemination of information that could undermine national unity.” According to the prisoners’ rights group, National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), plain clothes-policemen arrested him from his home in Algiers.
After obtaining a search warrant, the police brought him back to his home and proceeded to conduct a search, following which Ghares was taken to an undisclosed location. 47-year-old Ghares was later presented in front of the investigating judge at the Bainem court in Algiers, who placed him in pre-trial detention, according to his lawyers. No further details were provided by the authorities.
Apart from his role as the head of the MDS, Ghares is also an important figure in the Hirak protests, which a little over two years ago successfully overthrew longtime authoritarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Subsequent governments have continued to persecute those critical of the government.
The Hirak protests have been the primary target of the authorities for its sustained anti-establishment stance and its longstanding demands of political and economic reform in the country. Thousands of Hirak leaders and activists, opposition figures and government critics have been arrested and persecuted since the movement began in February 2019, with approximately 300 Algerians currently estimated to be in pre-trial detention, according to the CNLD.
Ghares’ arrest and subsequent detention has been condemned by Algerian human rights groups along with other opposition political parties. The vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), Said Salhi, termed it as another example of “repression” in Algeria, adding that “political action is not a crime” and that “Ghares is in prison only for expressing his opinion.”
Mohcine Belabbas the head of the opposition party, Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), denounced it as a “show arrest” and said that it’s obvious that “the power persists and declares that the political actors of the opposition are from now on considered as criminals.”
The authorities have embarked on a massive campaign of repression, outlawing protests and arresting thousands of demonstrators just as the country approached general elections. Several notable and popular civil society figures such as poet of Hirak, Karim Tabbou, journalist Khlaed Drareni, human rights defender Fatiha Briki, lawyer-activist Abderaouf Arslane, were also detained as the government attempted to silence opposition and criticism amid growing election boycott calls.