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Algeria: 4 receive jail time for insulting the president

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Four Algerians were sentenced to six months in prison yesterday for insulting the president and spreading false news, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Yasser Kadiri, Said Zegar, and Khelil Kheyi, were sentenced by a court in the central Algerian town of Timimoun.

The trio, who have been in custody since September, were convicted of insulting current President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and spreading false news.

The fourth suspect, Aksassi Elhassane, was convicted further south, in the town of Reggane.

Elhassane, a secondary school teacher, was detained in early October.

It was not immediately clear on what charges he was convicted.

All four are members of the Hirak protest movement formed in February 2019 to demonstrate against then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.

According to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees, a prisoners rights group, nearly 90 per cent of the people currently in jail or police custody are connected to the Hirak protest movement.

READ: Algeria sacks transport minister

Bouteflika was forced to resign under pressure from the mass protest movement in April 2019, after nearly 20 years in power.

Protests continued after Bouteflika’s ouster, however, only halting when coronavirus restrictions forced demonstrators off the streets in early 2020.

Several Bouteflika-era senior officials have since faced trial on charges of corruption.

Last year, two former prime ministers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, were found guilty of corruption and received 15 and 12-year jail sentences respectively.

The pair both received additional jail sentences later in the year, in separate cases.

However, their sentences were quashed by the Supreme Court in November following a defence appeal.

The pair are both being retried on corruption charges, including allegations they secretly financed the then-premier’s re-election bid in 2019.

Ouyahia’s retrial started last week.

The former premier has already admitted selling 60 gold bars, received in his official capacity as gifts from the leaders of Gulf countries, on the black market.

The 68-year-old said he had not previously told prosecutors about the gold so as “not to undermine relations between Algeria and certain friendly countries.”

He also admitted that he had failed to declare the case to the income tax authorities.

READ: Algeria president returns to Germany to continue covid treatment

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Africa

Covid vaccine access will draw migrant to the EU, official says

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The number of refugees heading to Europe will increase this year due to the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, the Director-General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Michael Spindelegger, said on Monday.

Handelsblatt newspaper quoted Spindelegger as saying that the availability of vaccines and health care in Europe and the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic is expected to increase immigration levels.

READ: ‘Pandemic raised economic burden on migrants, refugees’

“People receive the vaccine for free in the European Union, and this is something that significantly attracts refugees from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, therefore we expect an increase in illegal immigration,” he said.

The centre’s experts indicated that they noticed new migration routes to Europe, for example through Lebanon to Cyprus or from Mauritania to the Canary Islands.

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Tunisia: Ghannouchi affirms right to demonstrate ‘peacefully’

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Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, yesterday affirmed the right to peaceful protest but cautioned against damaging public or private properties.

Speaking at the plenary session for the vote of confidence in the new ministers proposed by Prime Minister, Hichem Mechichi, Ghannouchi said: “While we affirm the right to demonstrate peacefully and express opinions, we caution against attacking public and private property.”

“There is no doubt that young people are the victims of the educational and social system’s failure, and it is our responsibility, all of us, to stand by them and reintegrate them, which is a collective effort undertaken by the state and supported by the civil society forces,” he said.

Ghannouchi also called on the judiciary to adopt alternative penalties like community service rather than corporal punishment against protesters in order to achieve the desired social justice and stability.

OPINION: The harvest of the Arab Spring revolutions

For nearly two weeks, hundreds of Tunisians have been protesting over social inequality and police abuses.

The Tunisian Ministry of Interior announced earlier that as many as 632 people had been arrested on charges of “rioting”.

On Monday, a protester died during clashes with police. Haykel Rachdi, 20, was killed when he was hit with a tear gas canister after joining protests in central Tunisia town of Sbeitla, his family said.

Ten years on from the Arab Spring [Mohammed Sabaaneh]

Ten years on from the Arab Spring
[Mohammed Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

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CEO of EgyptAir official dies during TV interview

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The CEO of Egypt’s national air carrier, EgyptAir, died while he was being interviewed on TV, local media reported yesterday.

TV presenter at local ExtraNews, Aya Abdel Rahman, said that the late company president, Abu Taleb Tawfik, died “while recording an interview with him in his office,” adding that his death was a result of a “sudden heart attack.”

Abdel Rahman pointed out that the deceased had asked her to interview his workers at Cairo airport, adding that he “unexpectedly had fallen on the ground as we walked towards the workers.” She described the incident as the “most difficult throughout my entire career.”

“Life is worthless, you can die any second,” Abdel Rahamn stressed.

The funeral was said to have taken place in the Giza governorate’s southern village of Al-Marazeeq.

Tawfik, 55, was reported to have been appointed to carry out the duties of the chairman of the Board of Directors of EgyptAir one day earlier.

READ: US-Egypt citizen Moustafa Kassem survived Abu Zabaal death van

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