ALGIERS (AFP) – Twenty-eight Algerian demonstrators were handed one-year jail sentences on Tuesday for “undermining national unity” by bearing the Berber minority’s flag during anti-regime protests, a prisoners’ rights group said.
A court in the capital’s Sidi Mhamed district sentenced 22 of the accused to 12 months in prison – half of it suspended – and fines of USD275, the CNLD committee said on its Facebook page.
Vice President of the Algerian human rights group LADDH Said Salhi condemned the ruling as “heavy, hard and unexpected”, adding that the defence team made up of almost 70 lawyers would appeal. Protesters had gathered outside the court on Monday ahead of the late night ruling, chanting, “Free the detainees!”
Later on Tuesday, the same court sentenced six others to six months in jail on the same charge over the Berber – or Amazigh – flag.
Salhi told AFP that the convictions “threated the unity of the Algerian judicial system” after several demonstrators put on trial in the provinces on the same charge had been acquitted. Algeria has been rocked by months of street protests demanding an overhaul of the entire political system.