Eighteen to face trial over anti-government protest in Algeria

ALGIERS (AFP) – Eighteen people who took part in a banned anti-government protest were ordered on Wednesday to stand trial next week, with nine of them put behind bars in the meantime, a lawyer said.

They were among hundreds of Algerians who took to the streets on Monday to demand democratic change and mark the anniversary of 1988 demonstrations that ushered  in reforms.

Following a hearing by magistrates in Algiers, nine of those detained three days ago were allowed free while nine were incarcerated, one of their lawyers said.

“The trial of these 18 protesters will take place on October 14,” lawyer Mustapha Bouchachi said.

Eight face charges of involvement in an unarmed gathering and incitement to disturbing the peace, while the ninth is accused of attacking the country’s president.

Around 400 to 500 demonstrators in Algiers tried to march to the city centre on Monday but were dispersed by police who made a number of arrests, an AFP reporter said.

A prisoners support committee, the CNLD, said on Tuesday over 20 people were arrested including students.

Protests also took place in several other areas of Algeria, with demonstrators chanting, “The people want the fall of the regime” and “Yes to a civil state, no to a military state”, according to the CNLD and social media.

They called for the release of members of the Hirak, the anti-government movement which last year swept ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power. Over 60 people are currently behind bars for acts related to Hirak, according to the CNLD.

Protesters kept up rallies after Bouteflika stepped down, demanding the ouster of the entire state apparatus, widely seen as inept and corrupt. But weekly demonstrations came to a halt earlier this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

With less than a month to go before a key referendum on constitutional reform – a vote the government hopes will meet protesters’ demands – many expect a resurgence of rallies.