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Algeria frees protestors pardoned by President Tebboune

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A dozen prisoners of “Hirak” were released Friday after a pardon granted by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, on the eve of the second anniversary of the uprising of this anti-regime movement, according to human rights defenders.

The National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD) reported on Facebook that more were expected to be released later on Friday.

According to Zaki Hannache, an activist, detainees were set free in the prefectures of Bordj Bou Arreridj, Tebessa, M’sila (east), Saïda (west), as well as in the south, in Tamanrasset and Adrar.

On Thursday, in a long-awaited speech to the nation, President Tebboune announced that he was pardoning dozens of “Hirak” detainees, a gesture of appeasement towards the protest movement.

“In all, between 55 and 60 people will join their families from tonight or tomorrow,” he promised, referring to those pardoned, without disclosing names.

A tweet from the Algerian presidency specified that the measure concerned “perpetrators of crimes related to information technology and communication”.

According to activists, some 70 people are currently in prison in connection with “Hirak” and/or individual freedoms. At least 90% of these prosecutions are based on publications critical of the authorities on social networks.

In front of the prison of Kolea, west of Algiers, activists, journalists and families gathered on Friday morning to wait for the released detainees. Among the prisoners in Kolea is journalist Khaled Drareni, who has become the symbol of the fight for press freedom in Algeria and was sentenced to two years in prison in September.

President Tebboune’s initiative comes on the eve of the second anniversary of the “Hirak”, February 22, 2019, which forced former ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika to leave power in April 2019.

The movement continues to demand the dismantling of the political “system” in place since Algeria’s independence in 1962.

Calls to demonstrate Monday throughout the country are circulating on social networks.

Thousands of Algerians had already gathered on Tuesday in Kherrata (east), considered the cradle of the uprising, to demand “the fall of the regime” and “the release of prisoners of conscience”.

AFP