Algeria’s Hirak protesters defy virus lockdown

Anti-government protests take place across several cities in Algeria during Eid Al-Fitr celebrations, demanding government free political prisoners.

LONDON - Algerians resumed Monday anti-regime protests in several cities in support of detainees of the “Hirak” movement, defying the ban of demonstrations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The protests took place during the Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in the North African country despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the ban on demonstrations.

Photos and videos, widely shared on social media, showed protesters chanting anti-government slogans in Kherrata city in the Bejaia province, east of Algiers where the first Hirak demonstration was held.

Another protest in solidarity with Hirak prisoners was held Sunday in Setif, coinciding with the first day of Eid Al-Fitr.

Almost 50 political prisoners are still in jail, according to the latest figures given by the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD).

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak that has forced the popular movement to suspend its protests since mid-March, a crackdown has continued against regime opponents and independent media.

Algeria sentenced last week three opposition activists to jail over Facebook posts, in what rights groups said was the latest sign of increased repression.

Vast demonstrations broke out in Algeria in February last year after then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced a bid for a fifth term after 20 years in power.

He stepped down in April after losing the support of the army, but protesters had continued to hold mass rallies demanding a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system.