Algeria president pardons thousands but not protesters

(Reuters)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Algeria president pardons thousands but not protesters

  • The pardon came two days after the president issued a similar pardon for almost 3,500 other prisoners

ALGIERS: Algeria’s president pardoned almost 6,300 prisoners on Thursday, but scores detained as part of an anti-government protest movement will not benefit from the move, a support group said.
The pardon came two days after the president issued a similar pardon for almost 3,500 other prisoners.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune signed a decree Thursday pardoning “a second group of prisoners (6,294 detainees) ... whose remaining sentence is 18 months or less,” a statement from the presidency carried by official press agency APS said.
The measure does not apply to those imprisoned for crimes including terrorism, treason, espionage and corruption, it added.
On Tuesday, Tebboune pardoned 3,471 people who had six months or less remaining of their sentence.
The Hirak movement was launched in February 2019 to demand that longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resign instead of running for a fifth term.
The CNLD prisoners’ rights group, which identifies and supports detainees, said the pardons did not affect 142 Hirak members who are still in preventive detention.
Tebboune was elected president on December 12 in a poll marred by an official turnout of less than 40 percent.
Nearly a year after the movement began, Hirak protesters continue to demand systemic reform and the resignation of government officials.


Protesters pack Tel Aviv rally against coronavirus cash crisis

Updated 20 min 52 sec ago

Protesters pack Tel Aviv rally against coronavirus cash crisis

  • Event was organized by self-employed, small business and performing artists’ groups angry at coronavirus curbs which have taken away their livelihoods

TEL AVIV: Thousands of Israelis streamed into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest Saturday against the government’s handling of economic hardship caused by coronavirus curbs.
About 300 officers were deployed in the square, a traditional protest site, to ensure public order and monitor social distancing regulations, police said.
Many participants wore facemasks but most appeared to be less than the statutory two meters (yards) apart.
Some held banners reading in Hebrew: “Let us breathe” — an echo of worldwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, during a US police arrest.
The event was organized by self-employed, small business and performing artists’ groups angry at coronavirus curbs which have taken away their livelihoods.
Student unions also took part over the large numbers of young people made jobless by closures.
Israel imposed a broad lockdown from the middle of March, allowing only staff deemed essential to go to work and banning public assembly.
Places of entertainment were closed, hitting the leisure industry hard.
Facing public and economic pressure, the government eased restrictions in late May.
But infections have mounted and rules tightened again, including the closure of event venues, clubs, bars, gyms and public pools.
While salaried workers sent on furlough received unemployment benefits, the self-employed said most had been waiting months for promised government aid.
“There is a very grave crisis of confidence between us and the government,” Shai Berman, one of the protest organizers told Israeli public radio ahead of the rally.
“We are part of a very large public which is feeling growing distress and wants to demonstrate and simply does not believe the promises,” he added.
Berman was among activists invited Friday to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and finance ministry officials in a last-minute government effort to stave off the protest.
“He tried, very politely,” Berman said, adding that an aid package presented at the meeting was a start, but flawed.
Netanyahu promised swift implementation.
“We will meet our commitments including hastening the immediate payments that we want to give you,” his office quoted him as telling the activists.
On Friday, the health ministry announced the highest number of coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period, with nearly 1,500 new cases confirmed.
The country of roughly nine million has now registered more than 37,000 cases, including over 350 deaths.