An Algerian court has sentenced prominent anti-government activist Amira Bouraoui to a year in prison amid a growing climate of repression, one of her lawyers said.
Bouraoui, a 44-year-old gynaecologist, is a prominent activist in the “Hirak” protest movement that secured the resignation of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika last April.
The mother-of-two was convicted on six counts, including “insulting Islam”, “insulting” President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and “incitement to violate lockdown” during the coronavirus pandemic.
She was also accused of inciting illegal protests, and publishing “fake news”.
Prosecutors had sought 18 months imprisonment.
“This conviction is unjust, there is no evidence. We are going to appeal,” her lawyer, Mustapha Bouchachi, told AFP news agency.
“These kind of lawsuits, which have been going on for months, won’t calm the political situation. It’s not the best way to open up towards society, activists and this peaceful revolution,” he added, referring to the Hirak movement.
Bouraoui was arrested at her home on Wednesday.
A former activist with the Barakat or “That’s Enough!” movement, she came to prominence in 2014 when she opposed Bouteflika running for a fourth term.
Algerian authorities have arrested and prosecuted numerous activists in an apparent bid to prevent protests from resuming when the coronavirus lockdown is lifted.
Most prosecutions are being carried out under a new penal code passed hastily on April 22 amid the public health crisis.
The recent wave of arrests and prosecutions led some opposition activists to say the current rights situation is worse than during Bouteflika’s rule, particularly with regard to freedom of the press.
The North African country has gradually been relaxing its coronavirus lockdown measures since June 7.
Even though large gatherings have been forbidden since mid-March, hundreds of protesters turned out on Friday to resume the weekly protests that marked the political scene before the virus lockdown – particularly in the northwest Kabylie region, according to local sources.
Authorities arrested nearly 500 people across the country during Friday’s demonstrations, though most were subsequently released, said Said Salhi, vice president of the Algerian Human Rights League (LADDH).
Of approximately 100 held on Friday, nearly 20 were remanded in custody on Sunday. The rest were either convicted and sentenced or freed pending trial.
Before the latest wave of arrests, the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD) said some 60 people linked to the Hirak movement were in detention.
The movement started in February 2019, calling for an overhaul of Algeria’s political system, demands that continued after Bouteflika resigned.