400 arrested in Algeria at rally demanding reforms

Last Updated: Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 21:26

Algeria: A human rights activist says more than 400 people have been arrested during a pro-democracy protest that brought thousands of people onto the streets of the Algerian capital.

Ali Yahia Abdenour says women and foreign journalists were among those arrested during Saturday`s demonstration, which came a day after mass protests toppled Egypt`s autocratic leader.

Abdenour, who heads the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, said some 28,000 security forces were deployed in Algiers to block the march and disperse the crowds.

A human rights activist says more than 400 people have been arrested during a pro-democracy protest that brought thousands of people onto the streets of the Algerian capital.

Ali Yahia Abdenour says women and foreign journalists were among those arrested during Saturday`s demonstration, which came a day after mass protests toppled Egypt`s autocratic leader.

Abdenour, who heads the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, said some 28,000 security forces were deployed in Algiers to block the march and disperse the crowds.

The demonstration comes at a sensitive time — just a day after an uprising in Egypt forced Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in power and merely a month after another "people`s revolution" in neighboring Tunisia forced autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile on Jan. 14.

The success of those uprisings is fueling activists` hope for change in Algeria, although many in this conflict-scarred nation fear any prospect of violence after living through a brutal Islamist insurgency in the 1990s that left an estimated 200,000 people dead.

Saturday`s marchers urged reforms pushing Algeria toward democracy but did not specifically call for Bouteflika to resign. The rally was organized by the Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria, an umbrella group for human rights activists, unionists, lawyers and others.

Still, a markedly anti-government sentiment was in the air Saturday. Under the headline "Mubarak pushed from power," a La Liberte cartoon showed the score Egypt-1, Algeria-0 and a fan waving an Algerian flag saying "we`ve got to tie the score."

To quell tensions after the food riots, the government announced it would slash the price of sugar and cooking oil. Last week, mindful of the Tunisian and Egyptian protests, Algerian authorities also announced that the country`s nearly two-decade-long state of emergency will be lifted in the "very near future." However, authorities warned that the ban on demonstrations in the capital would remain.

The Islamist insurgency was set off by the army`s decision to cancel Algeria`s first multiparty election in January 1992 to thwart a likely victory by a Muslim fundamentalist party. Scattered violence continues.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 21:26

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