- Scheib Debaghi received a one-year sentence for Facebook posts.
- Two other activists, Boussif Larbi and Tahar Mohamed Boudiaf, were sentenced to 18 months in prison.
- The pro-democracy movement “Hirak,” began on February 22, 2019, calling for peaceful political initiation of structural political reforms.
Three Algerian opposition activists were slammed with harsh jail sentences, lasting up to one and a half years, following the publication on Facebook of a series of posts deemed by the authorities as potentially “harmful to the national interest.” The news was released by the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD) on its Facebook page on Wednesday.
Scheib Debaghi received a one-year sentence on charges of encouraging illegal rallies, insulting a government agency, and publishing what the authorities describe as potentially risky material. The non-governmental organization Amnesty International, on its part, claimed that two other activists, Boussif Larbi and Tahar Mohamed Boudiaf, were sentenced to 18 months in prison by a court in the western city of El Bayadh.
The reason given for their sentences was their publication on Facebook of what the authorities described as harmful posts to Algerian national interest. Activists and analysts fear that the authorities are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to crush the “Hirak” protest movement. The government has banned demonstrations to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, but the opposition had already decided to suspend its rallies.
According to the CNLD, around 50 people are currently being held for ties to the movement. In late April, Amnesty International had urged the authorities to put an end to “arbitrary prosecutions aimed at silencing Hirak activists and journalists amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Amnesty also called for the immediate release of the detainees. The organization for the defense of human rights had stressed that the authorities were also endangering the health of the inmates by the fact that prisons are places considered at risk for the explosion of COVID-19 outbreaks.
In Algeria, the pro-democracy movement “Hirak,” began on February 22, 2019, calling for peaceful political initiation of structural political reforms. The situation became worse after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would vie for a fifth consecutive presidential term. At that point, security forces began using force to disperse protesters, arresting protest leaders, and organizers. The movement, however, managed to bring down the Bouteflika regime.
With the new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, however, the tones seemed to be more peaceful, and the government’s strategy seemed more tolerant towards the demonstrators. With the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, and going by the latest trend of events, however, the Tebboune administration seems to be sliding back to the dark days of the former president. Bouteflika’s administration showed total intolerance towards critics of the administration.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune has been President of Algeria since December last year. He assumed the country’s presidency from former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and former Acting Head of State Abdelkader Bensalah. The Algerian political system has remained unstable and vulnerable, even with Tebboune’s assumption of power.
Amongst other things, he has failed to quell the Hirak movement. He and his government have also struggled with the Hirak’s “all out” slogan, which calls for the departure of all system figures.