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Algerian rights groups demand independent probe after alleged torture and sexual abuse of activists

ALGERIAN rights groups demanded today urgent independent investigations into allegations of torture and sexual threats made against detained pro-democracy campaigners.

The Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH) said: “We ask the public prosecutor’s office to act in accordance with the law” after the accusations were made by protesters during court hearings earlier this month.

Three activists from the Hirak protest movement claimed that they were tortured by the Algerian security services during their period of detention.

Walid Nekkiche, a 25-year-old student, told a court that he had been “sexually, physically and verbally assaulted” while he was held in police custody.

“I went through hell ... I put up with a lot during those 14 months in prison and particularly the six days spent in the Ben Aknoun barracks,” he said at a hearing on February 1.

He faced life in prison on charges of conspiracy against the state, undermining national integrity and inciting the population to bear arms. 

But he was released due to time served after being sentenced to six months for “possession and distribution of pamphlets in order to harm the country’s interest.”

One of the leading figures from the Hirak, Karim Tabbou, said he had been violently assaulted during interrogation at the Antar Barracks in the capital Algiers.

And Sami Dernouni, who remains in custody, told a hearing last week that he had been “stripped naked, beaten, tortured with a taser gun” at the same location.

Prosecutors are seeking 10 years behind bars for Mr Dernouni. The verdict is due to be delivered on Tuesday.

Their testimony has provoked outrage, with the prosecutor’s office announcing investigations “with the aim of establishing the truth about what happened.”

But critics have called for independent investigations, warning that the government would influence the outcome of such a probe. 

The Hirak movement began in February 2019 in response to a decision by then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stand for an unprecedented fifth term of office.

He stood down just two months later but protests continued to call for meaningful democratic changes, an end to the corrupt regime and the military’s withdrawal from politics.

Former prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected Algerian president in a widely boycotted December 2019 poll.

In retaliation, protesters once again took to the streets, saying that he was elected by fraud and remains a puppet of the armed forces.

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