18 Hirak activists freed on Algerian independence day

There are still close to 300 political detainees being held in prisons in Algeria. The president has indicated that more releases will take place in the days to come

July 06, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo : Middle East Online

18 activists of the Algerian Hirak protests were released from prison on Monday, July 5. The release of the political prisoners was ordered by the president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, on the occasion of the country’s 59th independence day. Algeria yesterday celebrated its independence from colonial French occupation in 1962 following a seven-year-long war. However, around 300 political detainees continue to languish in prison for either taking part in or having links to the Hirak protests or for being critical of the government. 

The Algerian justice ministry released a statement saying that the prisoners had started being released on Sunday by the relevant authorities. The president has also indicated that more political prisoners will be freed in the coming days. In a message released by the president to mark the occasion, Tebboune termed the Hirak movement as a “blessed authentic one,” but adding that it has become a subversive force.

Despite the release of the activists, the government’s crackdown on dissent has intensified over the past few months. The government has taken a series of undemocratic steps in the recent past, such as banning “unauthorized protests” and labeling opposition political groups as “terrorist groups,” in addition to banning political groups and arresting leaders and activists. Two of the prominent groups that have been banned are Rachad and MAK, a separatist movement in the Berber-majority region of Kabylie. 

Another group being targeted is the leftist Democratic and Social Movement party. Its leader, Fethi Ghares, was recently arrested on charges such as “insulting the president” and “threatening national unity” among others.

The repression of the Hirak movement and other political opposition in the country shows no signs of stopping even as the country concluded legislative elections last month. The country’s longest-ruling, pro-establishment National Liberation Front (FLN) emerged as the party with the most number of seats. It is set to form the next government as part of a coalition of at least two other political blocs in the country’s parliament. 

Algeria is going through a severe economic crisis owing to low oil prices and declining oil revenues as well due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The incoming government will also have to work towards resolving political divides and social disparities in the country. It will especially have to pay heed to the demands of the Hirak movement which has demanded an overhaul of the political system and administration of the country to do away with issues plaguing the country such as corruption.