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PROTESTS continued in Algeria for the 18th consecutive week in a movement for democratic change as a trade union leader warns of severe repression at the hands of the authorities.
Tens of thousands poured onto the streets of the capital Algiers as they demand those associated with the regime of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika step aside and usher in a new, democratic era.
In a display of unity, Berbers from the Kabylie region united, displaying their flag alongside the Algerian standard chanting: “Kabylie and Arabs are brothers, [army chief] Salah is with the traitors.”
This followed musician Lofti DK who said at a concert yesterday evening: “It is impossible to build tomorrow’s Algeria without these two flags,” holding both aloft to rapturous cheers.
President of the gas and electricity union SNATEG Raouf Mellal said there “is a historic popular moment” in Algeria with protesters determined their demands for transparent elections are met.
But he warned that trade unionists are targeted by the Algerian authorities as part of a clampdown on dissent.
“I was brutally arrested by the police for no reason,” Mr Mellal explained.
“I was taken to the police headquarters where they started to interrogate me about my trade union activities and then it started to get really horrible because they began to undress me.
“It was a really difficult moment for a trade unionist. I said to the police if I am a trade union leader and I am treated like this, how do you treat ordinary citizens?”
Mr Mellal said that it was because of the international support and solidarity from the movement he was set free.
He claimed the violence inflicted on him by the police caused him injuries from which he is still suffering.
And despite his release, he is still facing pressure from the authorities.
“I am still being harassed now. The police harass me through Facebook. They send me messages saying you are going to be put in prison as soon as possible.
“I must stay strong and carry on fighting because liberty and democracy are not easy to achieve against such a hostile power.”
He said the “historic popular moment” in Algeria means that people won’t stop “until their demands for a government of consensus of national unity which guarantees trade union freedoms, fundamental liberties for the people and which guarantees fair and transparent elections.”
The country remains in political deadlock after elections planned for July 4 were cancelled, having no popular support.
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