On Sunday, April 3, Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune granted clemency to around 70 Hirak protesters and also pardoned hundreds of convicted prisoners. According to Algerian state media, Tebboune signed “a presidential decree pardoning 1,076 convicted detainees on the occasion of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan” and “ordered clemency measures for 70 people accused in matters of public disorder.” This was after the Algerian authorities released more than 50 Hirak activists on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
According to the report, the clemency orders issued yesterday included the Hirak activists released from pre-trial detention last week on a provisional basis. Many of the prisoners were being held in illegal arbitrary detention by the authorities for participating in the weekly anti-establishment Hirak protests or criticizing and opposing the ruling regime and its policies.
Algeria’s National Commission for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD) had earlier stated that over 300 political prisoners were being detained illegally in the country. Even after the recent releases, over 200 political prisoners continue to be held illegally. Many of the detainees have been in prison for long periods of time on malicious and vague charges without any clear and definite prospects of a trial. Prisoners’ rights and human rights groups have repeatedly called upon the Algerian government to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and other detainees from pre-trial detention and drop the politically motivated charges framed against because of their association with the Hirak movement.
The Hirak protests erupted across Algeria in 2019 after then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced plans to run for a fifth consecutive presidential term. The movement was ultimately successful in overthrowing his authoritarian regime after nearly three decades in power. The movement continued its weekly demonstrations even after Bouteflika’s ouster, demanding further political and social reforms in the country until they petered down in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The movement has been a target for persecution by successive governments, with thousands of its leaders, activists and supporters being arrested and detained over the years and slapped with charges like involvement in ‘terrorist activities’, spreading false news, or threatening the national security and unity of the country.