The accused appeared in the direct summons for incitement to a meeting and obstructing the holding of the presidential election on December 12.

Twenty-three Hirakists, including women, a lawyer, and his children, were tried last Thursday by the Mostaganem Criminal Court for unarmed assembly, incitement to assemble, but also for obstructing the normal course of electoral operations, as planned by the organic law relating to the independent national electoral authority. The public prosecutor requested the sentence of six months in prison against accused persons who appeared free. It should be recalled that the events which brought the 23 accused to justice date back to December 12, 2019, the day of the presidential election.

It will be recalled that very strict security measures had been taken throughout the national territory, in particular the large wilayas, to ensure the smooth running of electoral operations and prevent opponents from demonstrating their rejection. Among these measures, arrests, often blind, had been made by the police, who arrested anyone suspected of disturbing the polls.

In Mostaganem, 23 people were arrested that day, including Hirakists, in various locations in the city center, including where there were no voting centers. Among the suspects, Me Zahaf, known to defend hirakists, and his children who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Before the criminal court, all rejected the accusations brought against them even if the Hirakists did not deny their membership of the Hirak.

“We never tried to disrupt the elections, nor incited any crowd,” they said in substance. Defense lawyers – fifteen, as in all the trials of Hirakists – naturally pleaded the innocence of their constituents and demanded their release. Once again, the political aspect weighed heavily on various interventions.

“We are before a political file, and all these people were arbitrarily arrested for one reason: to pass the election of December 12,” denounced Ms. Fatima-Zohra Meziane, a lawyer for the Oran bar, who is the court to defend the right to demonstrate and express opinions, guaranteed by the Algerian Constitution. “We are not yet in a state governed by the rule of law, and if we want to get there one day, we will have to start by freeing these innocent people,” she said.

Other lawyers have deplored that the prosecution agrees to deal with these types of cases which should not go beyond a police station. “Courts should have the courage to refer such cases which are not based on convincing evidence,” said Mehmed Mebrek, while a third lawyer will urge the court not to allow “justice to be exploited so for political purposes ”.

The verdict is expected to be announced on March 5.

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