Algerian police break up march



Algerian police break up march Algiers: Riot police on Saturday broke up a planned march by hundreds of protesters who want Algeria to scrap a law banning public gatherings. At least 13 people were injured, officials said.

Inspired by protests in neighboring Tunisia, organizers at democratic opposition party RCD draped a Tunisian flag next to the Algerian flag on a balcony of the party headquarters where the march was to begin. Riot police ringed the exit to ensure marchers couldn't leave the building.

"I am a prisoner in the party's headquarters," said Said Sadi, a former presidential candidate who leads the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, from a balcony window.

The official APS news agency said seven police officers were hurt, including two with serious injuries. A party spokesman, Mohcine Belabbas, said six party members were injured.

The party's leader in parliament, Atmane Mazouz, was hit in the face with a police baton. Five protesters were detained by police, only to be released later, APS reported.

Demonstrators shouted "Boutef out!" referring to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika — echoing cries against Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali before he fled Jan. 14 to Saudi Arabia amid huge street protests in Tunisia.

Protesters in countries like Algeria have set themselves on fire in apparent attempts to copy Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old Tunisian whose self-immolation helped inspire the protests that brought down Ben Ali.

Algeria's government in 2002 enacted law banning public gatherings, a move largely targeting Islamic militants involved in a bloody insurgency that erupted in the country a decade earlier.

The regional government for Algiers denied the RCD's request for an authorization to demonstrate, the official news agency said.

PTI