ALGIERS: Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of cities across Algeria on Friday, calling for an independent judiciary as a number of opposition leaders endure incarceration.
In the centre of the capital Algiers, national flags were held aloft by protesters, signifying the Hirak protest movement’s opposition to a government and leaders that they regard as illegitimate.
One banner read: “I have a dream -- democracy, the rule of law, freedom.” Pictures of detained prisoners of conscience featured alongside messages on numerous placards brought to the rally by protesters.
Around 30 people belonging or linked to the protest movement are currently behind bars.
“We want an independent judiciary. The injustice must stop!” said Mohammed, a 59-year-old retiree.
Another banner read “We are all Judge Merzoug”, referring to a magistrate who was suspended from his duties, amid criticism from Algeria’s justice ministry over his purported sympathy with the Hirak.
He is one of two judges who face legal action over links to the protest movement.
Protests also took place in several other cities, including Annaba in the east and Oran in the west.
The Hirak first mobilised in February 2019 and two months later forced then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to abandon a bid for a fifth term and then resign.
The movement sees the government as little changed since his departure from office, and demands a new political system that reflects the will of the people.
A presidential election in late 2019 resulted in victory for President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, once a prime minister under Bouteflika, in a poll where even official figures put turnout at only 40 percent, amid a substantial boycott organised by the Hirak.
The huge crowds filling the streets of Algiers headed toward the imposing central post office, the movement’s traditional rallying point, in a joyful atmosphere.
Many participants sang, brandished the Algerian flag and shouted slogans that included No to the military state and “We won’t stop until the Hirak wins” under the watch of police helicopters. Similar marches were organised in other cities across the country.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2021