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Algeria disbands reform group that helped depose ex-president

Algerian authorities on Thursday dissolved a decades-old pro-democracy group that participated in the peaceful protests which helped force the North African country’s long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office in 2019.

The Youth Action Group, known by its French acronym, RAJ, and the left-leaning Movement for Democracy and Socialism party that was also suspended by the same decree, appear to be the latest targets of a crackdown on Algeria’s dissenting voices.

The Algerian Council of State said RAJ was dissolved in line with an October 2021 administrative court decision in favor of an interior ministry lawsuit. The ministry had alleged that the group is “rallying forces to destabilize the country” and conducting other activities that violate a controversial 2012 law on nongovernmental groups.

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RAJ leaders have repeatedly denied the government’s allegations and said authorities under Bouteflika’s successor, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, have rolled back on promises to reform the power structure that under Bouteflika was marked by corruption and the ever-present shadow of repression.

International human rights organizations have urged Tebboune to scrap the 2012 law adopted by the Bouteflika regime that governs NGO activities — which also covers professional associations.

A group that facilitated protests against former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been forcibly disbanded by the government. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

In a joint statement earlier this month, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said the law is “heavily restrictive and does not conform with international standards on freedom of association.”

The two watchdogs also called on Algerian authorities to reverse the decision to dissolve the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, or LADDH, and “end their general crackdown on independent civil society organizations.”

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The Administrative Court of Algiers dissolved LADDH in June 2022 following a complaint filed by the interior ministry, the organization said in January after reading the verdict on its fate on the internet.

On Wednesday, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, or GI-TOC said in a statement that one of its researchers in Algeria, Raouf Farrah, was arrested and charged in court “with spreading information from classified documents.”

The organization said Farrah and his 67-year-old father who was also detained, were arraigned alongside seven others in the northeastern city of Constantine in an overnight hearing Feb. 20. Raouf Farrah was also charged with “receiving funds for the purpose of committing acts to disturb public order,” the organization said, and called the charges “completely baseless.”

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“There is nothing classified or harmful to the Algerian state in (Farrah’s widely) published research,” the organization said and urged authorities to release him.

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