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Euro-Med warns of reprisals in Algeria

Geneva–The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that the Algerian authorities work hard to hold presidential elections against the will of large segments of the Algerian society, who took to the streets aspiring to establish a democratic system based on a peaceful transfer of power.

The Euro-Med expressed in a statement its grave concern after an Algerian court this week sentenced four protesters to 18 months in jail for disrupting the campaign of a presidential candidate due to be held on December 12.

The Euro-Med explained that the security authorities have launched campaigns in recent weeks to arrest dozens of activists and prominent journalists, including Hakim Addad, the founder of the Youths Action Society, (Raj), its current president Abdel Wahab Farsawi and nine other members of the society, in addition to prominent opponent Karim Tabu, the Secretary-General of the former Socialist Forces Front (FFS), activists Samir Belarbi, Fadhel Boumala, and journalists Said Boudoirs and Mustapha Benjama, who were released later waiting for their trial.

Euro-Med pointed out that the detainees were subject to interrogation by investigation teams and were charged with a number of charges, including "undermining the integrity of the homeland", which is punishable by imprisonment of 1-10 years, Under article 79 of the Algerian Penal Code.

Since February, the popular movement in Algeria has been demanding the removal of former President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika’s allies, who resigned on April 2. The army's chief of staff and deputy defense minister, Kaid Salih, is the most powerful man in Algeria. On August 26, he rejected the protesters' demands for a transition.

Five candidates in Algeria's presidential election began campaigning this week, all with close ties to the ruling establishment.

Anas AlJerjawi, the director of the Middle East and North Africa at the Euro-Med Monitor, said: "The military establishment's insistence on holding elections in its current time and form, and its total disregard for the voice of the street, raises real concerns that the country will remain under the control of the military government. It weakens the chances of building a sound democratic path based on a peaceful alternation of power.”

AlJerjawi added that the army commanders should realize that non-consensual elections will not resolve the current crisis, and that listening to the demands of protesters and opening a serious and genuine dialogue with them, and implementing the recommendations of the outcome of that dialogue without conditions could only put an end to the crisis in the country, and not through unilateral steps.

Bouteflika's men include presidential candidates like Ali Benflis, who served as a Prime Minister from 2000-2003, and former Prime Minister Abdelmajid Tebboun who served for three months only between May and August 2017, as well as other ministers who served under the former regime.

The Euro-Med Monitor noted that allowing these candidates to run for elections is completely contrary to the desire of protesters to fundamentally change the regime that ruled Algeria for two decades without respect for human rights and freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by the Algerian Constitution.
The Euro-Med called on the Algerian authorities, and the military leadership in particular, to postpone the elections, and to reach an agreement with different political forces and representatives of protesters on a formula to hold elections in a manner that would guarantee Algeria’s real democratic transition, calling on the authorities to release all activists and journalists arrested since the protests have broken out.

Tens of thousands of Algerians continue to demonstrate on a weekly basis following the resignation of Bouteflika to reject December 12 presidential elections plan, which would reimpose the Bouteflika's rule on Algerians.

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