Algerians keep protesting despite arrest of top officials

Demonstrators in Algiers demand the departure of senior figures linked with former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Students wear their national flag as they demonstrate in Algiers on June 11, 2019, two days after a vote planned for July 4 was cancelled. A vote planned for July 4 was cancelled on June 9 in the face
Protests continued despite the detention of two former p and business people linked to Bouteflika on anti-graft charges [File: Ryad Kramdi/AFP]

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Algeria‘s capital for the 17th straight week, demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The protest in Algiers on Friday came a day after former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal joined a long list of prominent politicians and business people who have been arrested as part of corruption probes.

There was no official count, but a Reuters news agency reporter estimated that the number of people protesting was higher than last Friday, but still smaller than in the weeks before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in May.

“You have built prisons, you will be imprisoned there all,” read one banner held up by protesters marching through central Algiers.

“Thieves, you have pillaged the country,” the crowds of protesters chanted.

“They deserve what they got … and they must be held accountable by the people for their actions,” said protester Mohammed, who declined to give his surname.

After 20 years in power, Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 under pressure from protesters and the army, but protests have continued.

‘We must continue’ 

On Wednesday, a day before Sellal’s arrest, the Supreme Court ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption.

Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have also been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”. 

“Jailing Ouyahia and Sellal is an excellent thing,” said Cherif Tigrin, a 40-year-old carpenter taking part in Friday’s rally.

“But we must continue” to protest as long as Bouteflika’s cronies remain in power, he said.

State media also said police had arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG , at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane in connection with “corruption cases”.

Volkswagen declined to comment. 

Protesters rejected an offer from interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to hold a dialogue with all parties after authorities postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4. 

No new date has been set for the vote. 

“We need real dialogue,” read one protest banner. Protesters have rejected Bensalah as too close to Bouteflika.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who has been managing the transition, has called on parties and protesters to meet among themselves to discuss a way out of the crisis.

He also called for the prosecution of officials accused of being corrupt, after which the wave of arrests started.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies