Algeria pardons thousands of prisoners

Police officers are seen at El Harrach prison in Algiers, Algeria, on June 13, 2019. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 04 February 2020

Algeria pardons thousands of prisoners

  • Tebboune has said his top priority is to restore confidence
  • Last month he also ordered the release of dozens of people who had been detained for taking part in the protests

ALGIERS: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Tuesday pardoned more than 3,000 prisoners serving sentences less than six months as he seeks to win support after months of political turmoil.
Tebboune, elected in December in a vote opposed by a huge protest movement seeking the replacement of the entire ruling elite, has said his top priority is to restore confidence.
Thousands of people are still protesting every Friday, but the numbers appear to have waned since Tebboune’s election and his offer of talks with the opposition.
Last month he also ordered the release of dozens of people who had been detained for taking part in the protests.
He has also promised a process to offer constitutional amendments to the public through a referendum in order to give parliament a bigger role and increase political freedoms.
A court in Algiers on Monday acquitted Samir Benlarbi, an activist and a leading member of the protest movement who had been detained for over four months for “harming the national unity.”
Several other activists are still in detention pending trail in Algiers and other towns, but it was unclear whether the 3,471 people pardoned on Tuesday include those detained for involvement in the recent political unrest.


Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

Updated 05 April 2020

Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

  • Health personnel in protective gear took the temperature of disembarking passengers
  • Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Sunday started repatriating nationals stranded abroad in its first flight in weeks since it closed its international airport to stem the novel coronavirus.
The first of four planes touched down at the Beirut international airport late Sunday morning bringing in 78 passengers from Riyadh, local television reported.
It showed health personnel in protective gear taking the temperature of disembarking passengers.
The Mediterranean country announced a lockdown and closed its airport on March 18 as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 527 people and killed 18 nationwide.
An AFP photographer saw a dozen buses outside the airport waiting to transport the passengers.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab had arrived earlier amid heavy deployment of the Lebanese army, he said.
Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month.
Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines has said flights would also land in Beirut on Sunday from Abu Dhabi, Lagos and Abidjan.
It has also announced return trips to Paris, Madrid and Kinshasa on Tuesday.
Lebanese returning home must either test negative for the virus no longer than three days before their return, or be tested immediately upon arrival, according to government guidelines.
They must pay for their own ticket and their families are not allowed to meet them at the airport.
The government has said priority will be given to those with critical health conditions such as diabetes or cancer, those aged over 60 and under 18, and families.
But critics have complained of steep ticket fares, while a financial crisis has severely restricted transactions from Lebanese bank accounts.
Coronavirus is the latest crisis to hit Lebanon, which is already reeling under a crumbling economy.
Due to an acute liquidity crisis, banks have since September increasingly been restricting access to dollars and have halted money transfers abroad.
On Monday, however, the banking association agreed to allow dollar transfers to Lebanese students outside the country to help them face the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry said.
Diab on Sunday told reporters the government was studying the possibility of supporting returning Lebanese students with a ticket.
Lebanese expatriates and activists have clamoured online for MEA to lower the price of its tickets and help those who can’t afford it.
The airline on Friday claimed tickets were more expensive — $650 for an economy class seat from Riyadh and $1,800 for a cheaper fare from Abidjan for example — because planes would be empty on the way out to evacuations.