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Algerians protest for second Friday in revival of 2019 movement | Protests News

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Demonstrators call for the political establishment to depart and the army to quit politics.

Thousands of Algerians demonstrated against the political and military elite in the capital Algiers and other cities across the country for a second successive Friday, as the United Nations human rights body voiced concern at what it called a crackdown on protesters.

The demonstrations mark a resumption of the street protest movement calling for the old political establishment to depart and the army to quit politics, which suspended its weekly marches a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The movement, known locally as Hirak, first mobilised in February 2019 and within weeks forced then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to abandon a bid for a fifth term and resign.

The protests continued weekly until the global coronavirus pandemic reached Algeria a year ago.

“Thieves, you have destroyed the country,” the protesters chanted in central Algiers.

Khadidja, a protester in her 70s, said she had taken part in every rally since the first in 2019.

“I hope that my children and grandchildren get to live in a better Algeria than the one I have lived through,” she said.

Algerians wave national flags during an anti-government protest in the capital Algiers on March 5, 2021 [Ryad Kramdi/AFP]

Journalist Khaled Drareni, recently freed after nearly a year in custody, covered Friday’s protests on his social media accounts.

Protesters lashed out at the intelligence services, accusing them of being “terrorists”. Detainees have alleged they were tortured in custody.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected in 2019 in a vote that many protesters regarded as a charade, has hailed the movement as providing national renewal, but demonstrators see his government as a continuation of previous administrations.

Police have not stopped the protests but maintain a heavy street presence. The spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said there was reliable information that hundreds had been arrested.

“There have been numerous instances across the country where security forces have used unnecessary or excessive force and arbitrary arrests to suppress peaceful demonstrations,” the spokesperson said.

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