Algeria Update: Regime Wields Carrot and Stick
IN THIS MESSAGE:
(1) Appeal Trial of Louisa Hanoune: “Unconditional Release of All Prisoners of Conscience!” — reprinted from IWC Newsletter No. 150 – February 7, 2020
(2) Algeria Update: Illegitimate Regime Wields Carrot and Stick — reprinted from Tribune des Travailleurs / Workers Tribune, France — Issue No. 224, January 29, 2020)
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(1) Appeal Trial of Louisa Hanoune: “Unconditional Release of All Prisoners of Conscience!”
(reprinted from IWC Newsletter No. 150 – February 7, 2020)
The Algerian press reports that “the appeal trial of Louisa Hanoune, Mohamed Mediene (known as Toufik), Athmane Tartag (known as Bachir), and Said Bouteflika has been scheduled for 9 February. … The four individuals had been sentenced in the first instance last September by a military court to 15 years in prison each for “undermining the authority of the army” and “conspiracy against the authority of the State”.
The Algerian Workers Party (PT), for its part, recalled in a communiqué that “its secretary general [Louisa Hanoune] was sentenced arbitrarily by the Blida Military Court to 15 years in prison as part of the criminalisation of political action”. The PT renewed its call for “the pure and simple release of Louisa Hanoune, her acquittal and the dropping of all charges and proceedings against her on the grounds that she is a political prisoner and a prisoner of opinion” (TSA, 2 February).
The Independent Democratic Workers’ Party (POID) of France — which for nearly a year, from the very first day of the Hirak [mass upsurge], has affirmed its unconditional support for the right of the Algerian people to decide their own future, rejecting any interference, in particular from the French government — declared as early as March 2019 its support for the release of all prisoners of conscience, thrown into prison by the regime, regardless of their political positions.
The POID has shown its solidarity with the ongoing fight against repression, relaying in its press the campaigns conducted, among others by the Anti-Repression Network, for the release of prisoners of conscience and democratic freedoms. It reported on the appeal by 700 activists and personalities of all tendencies that was published a month ago for the release of all the detainees, including Louisa Hanoune. This was fierce struggle that culminated on 3 February 2020 in the release of activist Samir Belarbi from prison.
As early as 9 May 2019, the day of Louisa Hanoune’s arrest and imprisonment, the POID endorsed the declaration of the Organising Committee of Socialist Internationalists (COSI) of Algeria, which stated, in part:
“The rejection of the current regime is deepening. It cannot be answered by repressive measures against parties or their leaders. It is up to the people and to them alone, to their elected and mandated delegates to the Sovereign Constituent Assembly, to decide among the various political options before them. This is a matter of democratic freedoms, not repressive measures. In recent weeks, there has been harassment and intimidation of democratic rights activists and labour activists. The Organising Committee of Socialist Internationalists of Algeria believes that the measures taken against these activists, including the Secretary General of the PT, must cease immediately. The path to democracy cannot be achieved by restricting freedoms. No to repression! Yes to democratic freedoms! Yes to the Sovereign Constituent Assembly! System out! — Algiers, May 9, 2019, 3 p.m.”
The Independent Democratic Workers Party (POID) has since consistently advocated for the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including Louisa Hanoune. It has reiterated this demand on the occasion of her appeal. — D. F.
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(2) Algeria Update: Illegitimate Regime Wields Carrot and Stick
(reprinted from Tribune des Travailleurs / Workers Tribune, France — Issue No. 224, January 29, 2020)
In response to 11 months of massive mobilizations demanding that it get “get out of the way,” the Algerian regime is now wielding a carrot and a stick. On the one hand, it is multiplying the calls for “dialogue” with opposition forces, while making demagogic promises — such as the announcement of the construction of a million homes in four years.
On the other hand, it is unleashing “targeted” repression against political activists. On Friday, January 17, the arrests began at 1 p.m. and continued into the evening. The arrests took place during the 48th consecutive week of weekly demonstrations demanding the ouster of the regime, with contingents, for example in Algiers, that included large numbers of dwellers from poor neighborhoods such as Bab El Oued or El Harrach.
In the afternoon of January 17, information transmitted by the families and friends of the victims of the arrests circulated on the social networks. “Slimane Khermous, the FFS [Front of Socialist Forces] mayor of Souk El Tenine, has just been arrested in Algiers,” was one such message. “Kamel Nemiche, an activist of the RAJ [Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse / Action Youth Regroupment], has just informed his family that he is in police custody in a police station in Algiers,” was another. There were many more such messages.
The arrests of activist Djamel Oulmane and journalist Zoheir Aberkane also were reported. “The press and journalists are under much greater pressure than during the reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika [former president of Algeria],” read one dispatch. The defendants were brought before the courts the next day. The hearings were often a farce. A judge asked what one of the defendants was accused of, and he replied, “I’m here because I demonstrated in the streets.” The judge replied, “This means you didn’t break the law. …”
Nevertheless, while most of the defendants were released temporarily, they will be tried in February on the charge of “calling for an unarmed rebellion” — meaning they are still under a permanent threat of imprisonment. In Biskra, student Benalia Mohamed Amine was not so “lucky.” He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined 100,000 dinars for “attacking the head of state” for a simple message of criticism posted on his Facebook account.
This new wave of repression has “targeted” its victims selectively. It is aimed at all those in trade unions, political parties, associations and the media who have rejected the so-called “appeal for dialogue” by President Tebboune’s, who was placed in office by the military hierarchy. These targeted arrests are intended to “clear the deck” for the organizations that are in favor of a “dialogue” with the illegitimate authorities.
Forty days after the staging of the presidential election, nothing has been settled: Workers and people continue to fight, as in Jelfa, in the south, against the high cost of living, or in the capital city of Algiers over the issue of housing, while strikes are breaking out in many industries against the non-payment of wages. As one journalist noted:
“The [regime’s] objective is to create rifts in the Hirak [the mass mobilization] and divide it … . The masses in the streets have expressed clearly their rejection of the dialogue proposed by the regime. Nor do they want to hear anything about the constitutional changes to which (the regime) refers. Algerians want a new Constitution after a deep debate within society. A new Constitution that will enshrine all their rights. Only a new Constituent Assembly can draft a new Fundamental Law.” (DZ Vidéos, 19 January).
The immediate convening of the sovereign Constituent Assembly, through which the Algerian people will themselves define the form and content of democracy, remains the only possible prospect for putting an end to the regime.
— Correspondents in Algeria