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IndustriALL condemns brutal arrest of Algerian union leader

Raouf Mellal, president of gas and electricity workers’ union, SNATEG, was violently arrested by police on Tuesday 23 May at a peaceful student demonstration in Algiers.

While in detention, he was handcuffed to an iron chair and interrogated by police before being strip-searched and sexually harassed.

“They took me to the police station and asked me to provide my phone’s code in order to check my mail and personal info. I refused to comply, as there was no judicial ruling ordering me to give it to the police, which made them start psychological torture,” says Mellal.

“I was handcuffed in a fixed iron chair and they started interrogating me by fabricating many charges, such as I stole my phone and that I exploited power and influence, and many other charges. When they realized that I was ready to go the prison, they searched me and took off my clothes in a very humiliating way. I was sexually harassed by one of the agents who tried to touch me on the pretext of searching.

“What happened to me yesterday was horrible and terrifying.”

Raouf Mellal, president, SNATEG

Raouf was released later that evening but is now facing jail on charges of impersonating a trade unionist and slander against a director at state-owned gas and electricity provider, Sonelgaz. He is due in court on Sunday 28 April.

“It is very probable that I will be imprisoned on trumped-up charges, maybe because of my trade union activities, and because of our repeated calls for strikes and protests that have alarmed the regime,” says Mellal. “It is obvious that we are experiencing a counter-revolution led by the military and its followers.”

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, says:

“We vehemently condemn the brutal treatment of Raouf Mellal, who as president of our independent Algerian affiliate, SNATEG, has been fearless in defending workers’ rights, exposing state corruption and calling for regime change. The charges against him are clearly fake and should be dropped at once. The Algerian government must respect the right of its citizens to peaceful protest and form democratic trade unions.”   

IndustriALL affiliates from the Middle East and North Africa, who are currently meeting in Beirut, have expressed their support for the SNATEG leader and for free and democratic unions in Algeria.


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