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First activists freed in Algeria as presidential pardons take place

Algeria witnesses the first batch of freed Hirak movement activists on the second anniversary of the movement, following a presidential pardon issued by the government.

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On 19 February, over a dozen Hirak movement activists were freed from prison within the context of presidential pardons announced by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, prior to the second anniversary of the movement. A rights group called the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD) indicated that around 70 activists from the movement and other political movements still remain in prison.

On late-Thursday, in an address to the nation, President Tebboune announced that pardons would be imposed on 55 to 60 Hirak movement activists, described by some as a mean of appeasement as the movement has recently gathered momentum once again. Most of the activists currently in prison were arrested on the charges of anti-government posts on social media sites such as Twitter, which are also those that will be receiving pardons according to the President’s speech.

The Hirak movement is a series of protests which began in 2019 after the country’s 20-year President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fifth term in office. The one year long protests conducted in the country as well as in other countries with an Algerian diaspora resulted in the resignation of Bouteflika, and currently demands for an overhaul of the ruling system of the country since its independence from France in 1962.

In Thursday’s speech, aside from the presidential pardons, President Tebboune announced the dissolution of the parliament’s lower house and the decision to conduct an early legislative election. The country currently faces an economic and political crisis which has been troubling the oil-dependent country, alongside the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

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