Lakhdar Bouregaa, a highly respected veteran of Algeria’s war of independence against France and a key figure in an anti-government protest movement, has died at the age of 87.
“Lakhdar Bouregaa is now under God’s protection,” his son Hani Bouregaa wrote on Facebook late on Wednesday, two weeks after the veteran’s family announced he had contracted coronavirus.
The longtime opposition political figure, who spent the second half of 2019 in prison for his role in the Hirak mass protest movement, was buried at the Sidi Yahia cemetery in the hills above Algiers.
Hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their respects, despite coronavirus restrictions on gatherings.
Thousands of citizens attended the funeral of brave Mujahedin Si Lakhdar Bouregaa to pay tribune to a man who was truly respected in all 4 corners of #Algeria. God grant him heaven and eternal peace. ❤️🌹💥🇩🇿🙏 https://t.co/Rc4mT53IUH
— Gem_Tam (@GemTam142) November 5, 2020
Some shouted the Hirak protest movement’s slogan “civilian state, not military” and pledged to “continue the fight”.
“We will remember him for his determination to keep pressing forwards, to pass on the torch to young people,” wrote one Twitter user, adding that Bouregaa had possessed the “rare” quality of being a war hero who avoided being stuck in the past.
The Hirak protests flooded the streets of Algerian cities in early 2019, forcing out longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Protesters continued to rally in hundreds of thousands to demand deep political reforms, suspending demonstrations only when the coronavirus pandemic prompted a nationwide lockdown.
Nearly 90 of their supporters, including journalists and bloggers, are currently behind bars, according to the prisoners’ support group CNLD.
But the Hirak has sought to keep up the political pressure, including by boycotting a referendum on constitutional changes that took place on Sunday – an exercise it dubbed regime window-dressing.
The poll yielded a meagre official turnout of 23.7 percent, the lowest in a national poll since independence.