Authorities in Algeria have released more than 30 pro-democracy activists from jail, less than one week after human rights organisations raised concerns over alleged abuse of prisoners in the country.
It is understood that President Abdelmadjid Tebboune pardoned the activists in a gesture of appeasement as the Hirak protest movement, which ended the reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019, gathers momentum once again.
Tebboune made this move following calls on social media for demonstrations on 22 February to mark the day.
‘So far 33 people have been released. Procedures are underway for the rest’, a statement from the country’s justice ministry read.
Prominent journalist Khalid Drareni was among those pardoned.
The 40-year-old journalist has walked out of the Kolea prison, according to his lawyer, Abdelghani Badi, who said Drareni’s release was ‘provisional’.
Drareni, a correspondent for French-language TV5 Monde and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), was sentenced to three years in jail for his coverage of the Hirak protest movement.
‘I thank all those who supported me and prisoners of conscience. Your support is an essential proof of our innocence’, Drareni said in a video posted on Twitter after his release.
Also released was opposition figure Rachid Nekkaz, 47, who had been detained since December 2019 and accused of incitement, according to the CNLD.
Around 70 people are in prison over their links with the Hirak or other peaceful opposition political activity, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD).
CNLD is one of the groups created by human rights organisations in Algeria to tackle abuse of prisoners in the country following reports of rights violation.
The group had vowed to address torture and inhuman prison conditions in the North African country following a claim that a 25-year-old protester Walid Nekkiche was beaten and raped by security forces while in custody.
Nekkiche was arrested last November during a march by students of the anti-government Hirak protest movement.
Photo source: Africanews