Algerian activists concerned about freedom of assembly
By Walid Ramzi for Magharebia in Algiers – 28/06/12
Algerian human rights defenders and trade unionists face obstacles in exercising their right to protest, activists and lawyers say.
In the latest incident, a Sidi M'hamed court on Wednesday (June 27th) handed blogger Tarek Mameri an eight-month suspended sentence and a fine of 100,000 dinars for publishing pictures and videos on the Internet in which he called for a boycott of the parliamentary elections. Mameri was tried on charges of destroying public property after taking down election posters and burning his voter’s card.
A number of civil society actors denounced what they described as judicial harassment against activists accused of staging demonstrations without a permit. They alleged that the executive branch exerts pressure on the judiciary to persecute human rights defenders.
A group of civil society actors, activists, rights defenders and MPs on June 19th gathered outside the Bab El Oued Court to voice support for four rights activists prosecuted for inciting protests. Yacine Zaid, Athmane Aouameur, Abdou Bendjoudi and Lakhdar Bouzini in late April staged a demonstration in support of their activist Abdelkader Kherba.
Kherba, a member of the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC) and the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), was convicted for "inciting the crowd and impersonating others" after his participation in the protest of clerks on hunger strike. The activist was sentenced to a one-year suspended term and a fine of 20,000 dinars.
According to the hearing judge, the court postponed deliberations in the case of the four activists until September 27th in order to examine the file. The defence deemed this delay strange, considering that the file is baseless and contains no details requiring time to study.
Among protestors outside the Bab El Oued Court was Mustapha Bouchachi, a leading candidate of the Algerian Socialist Forces Front and the LADDH's former chief.
The heavy turnout signalled a strong solidarity with the activists on trial, according to lawyer Amine Sidhoum.
He added that the file is baseless and contains only two papers, no more and no less, and that the activists have not committed any offence but participated in a peaceful protest in support of their fellow activist.
The LADDH denounced what they deemed to be a judicial harassment against a number of human rights activists, saying they were being prosecuted on the basis of Article 100 of the Penal Code. The league's statement read that the prosecutions only aim at stifling freedoms and represent a serious violation of freedom of assembly, even though it is a constitutional right guaranteed in domestic law and international covenants on human rights ratified by Algeria.
According to the statement, those behind these prosecutions are contradicting commitments declared by the President of the Republic in terms of political reforms and the exercise of collective and individual freedoms.
The Network of Algerian Lawyers for the Defence of Human Rights also condemned the prosecution of the four rights activists, describing the charge against them as unfounded. It decried what it called "using the judicial bodies as means of pressure against all those who demand their rights".
In addition, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) demanded an immediate release of the activists and an end to the trial. The group said the trial of the activists was a "flagrant violation of freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom to demonstrate, and aims to crack down on civil society in Algeria".
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