Algeria: Escalation of pre-election crackdown with arrest of two prominent journalists and opposition leader

Responding to the news that Algerian authorities have arrested journalists Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi as well as the emblematic opposition leader Karim Tabbou last night, ahead of legislative elections on 12 June, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amna Guellali said:

“These arrests mark a chilling escalation in the Algerian authorities’ clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression and association ahead of the elections. Instead of rounding up journalists and political opponents in a bid to crush dissent and intimidate members of the Hirak protest movement, Algeria’s authorities should focus on respecting their human rights obligations.

Instead of rounding up journalists and political opponents in a bid to crush dissent and intimidate members of the Hirak protest movement, Algeria’s authorities should focus on respecting their human rights obligations.

Amna Guellali, Amnesty International

“It is highly likely that the three men have been targeted as retribution for their ties to the Hirak protest movement, which has called for radical political change in Algeria through peaceful means. Their detention follows an alarming pattern in recent months of arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of journalists and activists calling for social justice and political reforms. Unless the authorities have clear grounds to justify these arrests, the three men must be immediately released.”

Background:

The three men were arrested separately in the evening of 10 June and have been detained in Antar security centre for interrogation. It is not the first time they have been targeted by Algerian authorities.

Khaled Drareni was sentenced to three years in prison after a grossly unfair trial for his coverage of the Hirak protest movement in August 2020. The sentence was reduced to two years on appeal. He was released in February 2021 and his case was sent for retrial by the Supreme Court in March 2021.

In March 2020, political leader Karim Tabbou was sentenced to one year in prison on trumped up charges in relation to comments made in videos published on his political party’s Facebook page in which he criticized the role of the army in politics.

Ihsane El Kadi, director of Maghreb Emergent and RadioMPost, has faced legal proceedings for “defamation and insult” against Algeria’s president. In response, the authorities blocked the media outlets he runs.

As of today, there are 223 people currently detained in Algeria in connection with the Hirak protest movement according to local groups and activists monitoring the human rights situation on the ground.

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