Protesters brave riot police in Algerian capital

Algerian police thwarted a rally by thousands of pro-democracy supporters.

Algiers: Riot police clashed with
protesters who tried to stage a rally in central Algiers
today, leaving one Algerian opposition deputy seriously
injured, his party said.

Tahar Besbes, of the Rally for Culture and
Democracy, was hit in the stomach by a policeman and hit his
head on the pavement when he fell, party spokesman Mohsen
Belabbas said.

Besbes, who earlier lost consciousness and was
suffering from multiple injuries, later woke up and was
sleeping, said doctor Rafik Hassani of Mustapha hospital where
the activist was being treated.

Another opposition leader, Rachid Malaoui, and a
protester in his sixties fainted when they were hemmed in by a
strong police cordon before firefighters were able to evacuate
them, an AFP correspondent reported.

Some 200 protesters managed to get into May 1
Square, where they chanted "Algeria free and democratic" and
"People want the fall of the regime" as police blockaded
adjacent streets with armoured vehicles.

Nine police units were deployed on the square, an
official told AFP, with each unit comprising up to 120
officers to handle the demonstration which, like many others,
is banned in Algiers since 2001.

Wearing crash helmets and wielding truncheons,
police pushed back handfuls of young protesters who shouted:
"Free and democratic Algeria!", "Murderous leadership" and
"The people want the regime`s end!"

A total of some 3,000 people amassed in the area
including protesters, police and onlookers.

Several, brandishing symbolic red cards against the
regime, found themselves split up in small groups by police in
adjoining streets, Hassani said.

When they tried to flee in the opposite direction,
the protesters found themselves confronted by oncoming police
who charged at them, witnesses said.

A score of young pro-regime supporters arrived on
the scene holding pictures of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
and shouting: "Police officers, let us pick a fight with

In a protest a week ago some 2,000 demonstrators
succeeded in gathering in the square but were prevented from
starting a planned four-kilometre march to Martyrs Square.

The rally was organised by the National
Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD), a month-old
umbrella group made up of the political opposition, the
Algerian human rights league and trade unions.

Algerian demonstrators have been emboldened by
anti-government protests in neighbouring Tunisia and in Egypt
that ousted the leaders of both north African countries.