Algeria issues ‘terrorism’ warrants for exiled activists

Warrants come as Algeria’s anti-government Hirak protest movement are boosting weekly rallies ahead of the June elections.

Hirak Algeria
Demonstrators cover their faces with national flags during an anti-government protest in Algiers last March [File: Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

A court in Algeria has issued arrest warrants for outspoken exiled activists – a former diplomat, a blogger and a journalist – accusing them of seeking to turn a countrywide peaceful protest movement, known as the Hirak, into a violent one.

Sunday’s warrants come as Algeria’s anti-government protesters are boosting weekly rallies ahead of June parliamentary elections. Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune dissolved Parliament in February as part of his political reforms.

The warrants target former diplomat Mohamed Larbi Zitout, blogger Amir Boukhors, who writes under the name “Amir Dz”, and journalist Hichem Aboud.

Zitout, 57, who founded the political movement Rachad in 2007, lives in exile in Britain. According to the Algerian government, the group includes former activists from the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).

Other activists have accused the Rachad movement of using FIS former fighters to infiltrate the pro-democracy Hirak protest movement and lead it to violence.

Rachad denied the accusations, saying it seeks to establish a “civil state” that complies with democratic norms.

Zitout is wanted on charges of the “management and financing of a terrorist group”, as well as forgery and money laundering, according to the official APS news agency.

Boukhors, 38, has released several videos critical of the government, while Aboud, 65, reported to be a former member of the Algerian secret service, was sentenced last year in absentia to seven years in prison.

Both Boukhors and Aboud are based in France and face charges of membership in a “terrorist group targeting state security” as well as money laundering, the statement said, without mentioning the name of the group.

An arrest warrant was also issued for a fourth man, Mohamed Abdellah – about whom little is known – on similar charges as Boukhors and Aboud.

Another man, Ahmed Mansouri, a former activist and ex-FIS member arrested last month, was ordered held in detention ahead of his trial.

According to the statement, “technical investigations” had shown that Mansouri, Aboud, Boukhors and Abdellah were part of a plan to exploit Hirak protesters to shift it from its “peaceful character”.

Hirak protesters began demonstrating in February 2019 over then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office. Bouteflika was forced to resign months later after 20 years in power.

Recently it has held demonstrations demanding a sweeping overhaul of the political system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies