Algerian Protesters Call for Mass Trials of Former, Current Officials

Thousands of Algerian demonstrators took to the streets of the capital and other cities on Friday calling for mass trials for members of the former regime.

The protesters chanted slogans against members of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime, who protesters accuse of remaining in power.

Their chants included condemnation of a court’s decision this week to acquit the son of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a high-profile corruption case.

Khaled Tebboune had been in pre-trial detention since June 2018. But an Algiers court acquitted him late Wednesday,

Salim Naak, a pharmacist working in the capital Algiers, who demonstrated on Friday, slammed “double standards by the judiciary.”

“The president’s son had a quick trial and was acquitted because his father is the head of state. As for the innocent people, who had pushed for the anti-regime protests, they are lying in jail,” he said.

“This is evidence that nothing has changed” since Bouteflika’s resignation in April last year, said the man.

Unlike the February 22 rallies that marked the first anniversary of the protest movement, Friday’s demonstrations saw the deployment of a limited number of policeman on highways and in cities.

There was also no violence.

Observers had expected lower number of protesters over concerns on the coronavirus outbreak after Algeria announced its first case in an Italian citizen who arrived in the country on February 17.

Rumors on social media have it that the Italian had taken part in last week’s protests. But many considered the rumor an attempt by the authorities to target the protest movement.

“The regime has previously made such attempts to target the movement, but it has failed,” said a businessman in Algiers.

The man, who protested Friday, said he doesn’t have concerns over the virus.

“I am not afraid of the coronavirus as much as I am bothered by the gang that remains in power,” he said.