Algeria issues “terrorism” warrants against militants in exile | Political news

The warrants come as the Algerian anti-government protest movement Hirak spurs weekly rallies ahead of the June elections.

An Algerian court has issued arrest warrants against outspoken exiled activists – a former diplomat, blogger and journalist – accusing them of seeking to transform a peaceful nationwide protest movement known as the Hirak, in a violent movement.

Sunday’s warrants come as anti-government Algerian protesters boost weekly rallies ahead of June’s legislative elections. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune dissolved parliament in February as part of his political reforms.

The warrants target former diplomat Mohamed Larbi Zeitout, blogger Amir Boukhors, who writes under the name “Amir Dz”, and journalist Hichem Aboud.

Zeitout, 57, who founded the banned political movement Rachad in 2007, lives in exile in Britain. The group included former Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) activists among its members.

Many Democratic activists have accused Rachad of using former FIS fighters to infiltrate the pro-democracy protest movement Hirak and lead it to violence.

Rachad denied the charges, saying he sought to establish a “civil state” that conformed to democratic standards.

Zeitout is wanted for “managing and financing a terrorist group,” as well as forgery and money laundering, according to the official APS news agency.

Boukhors, 38, has released several videos criticizing the government, while Aboud, 65, allegedly a former member of the Algerian secret service, was sentenced last year in absentia to seven years in prison.

Boukhors and Aboud are both based in France and face charges of belonging to a “terrorist group targeting state security” as well as money laundering, the statement said, without mentioning the group’s name.

An arrest warrant has also been issued against a fourth man, Mohamed Abdellah – of whom little is known – on charges similar to those of Boukhors and Aboud.

Another man, Ahmed Mansouri, a former activist and former FIS member arrested last month, has been taken into pre-trial detention.

According to the statement, “technical investigations” had shown that Mansouri, Aboud, Boukhors and Abdellah were part of a plan to exploit the protesters of the Hirak to bring it out of its “peaceful character”.

Hirak protesters began demonstrating in February 2019 against the candidacy of then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term. Bouteflika was forced to resign months later after 20 years in power.

Recently, he organized demonstrations calling for a fundamental overhaul of the political system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

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