The military has extended its control on virtually every area of society in Algeria after the ailing 82-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was forced to stand down in April following mass protests.
The arrests are an attempt to crush independent unions and the civil society movement for democracy in Algeria. Internet access is restricted to stop protestors communicating and organizing rallies, while social media has been flooded with fake news and electronic trolls targeting the protest movement. Freedom of the press is severely restricted and a major news website has been shut down.
“It’s a terrible time for hundreds of activists locked up for demanding freedom and democracy in Algeria, and it could be my turn tomorrow. For that reason, solidarity matters now more than ever. The world must listen to the voice of political prisoners in Algeria. The world must demand respect for human rights in Algeria,” says Raouf Mellal, who is president of gas and electricity union, SNATEG, and trade union confederation, COSYFOP.
Mellal has been sentenced to prison in abstentia on numerous convictions and suffers daily harassment from the military. In April 2019, he was arrested, detained and tortured by police, and he has been forced to change address and telephone number in attempt to evade threats and intimidation.
Just this month, Mohamed El Amine Slimani, a youth leader at SNATEG and COSYFOP, was sentenced to prison at a court in Algiers for filming a march by their members.
Nasser Hamitouche, a COSYFOP member from Algiers, has suffered a mental breakdown after being interrogated by security forces for ten hours on 18 September. He was threatened with prison for violating the ‘unity’ of the country and was told to leave the confederation if he didn’t want to have ‘any more problems’.
IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“We call on the Algerian government to immediately release the political prisoners and drop all charges against trade unionists. Trade union rights have become virtually non-existent in Algeria. The government must stop the harassment of trade unionists, and guarantee the right to freedom of association, free from violence and threats.”
While new presidential elections have been announced for 12 December, leaders of opposition parties, who have shown support for SNATEG and COSYFOP, are incarcerated.
Louisa Hanoun, President of the Workers’ Party has been locked up since last April, while Karim Tabou, president of the newly formed Democratic and Social Union party was detained on 11 September, released over a week later, before being seized again.
Weekly demonstrations continue in Algeria and there are plans for a workers’ march on 5 October. “We are united by one goal – democracy,” says Mellal.
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