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Berbers rally for release of political prisoners

BERBER activists in Algeria demanded the immediate release of political prisoners held by the regime yesterday as protesters took to the streets for the 27th consecutive Friday.

Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital Algiers in the latest demonstration called for all those associated with former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to stand down in April, to be swept aside.

In Tiziz Ouzou, part of Algeria’s Kabilye region, activists defied the orders of army chief General Ahmed Said Galah and displayed banned Berber insignia, draping themselves in the distinctive flag.

They demanded the release of those held during a crackdown on dissent by the authorities that is targeting the Berber people. 

Algeria’s government and armed forces fear unity between the country’s sizeable Berber minority and the Arab majority, viewing it as a major threat.

One Berber activist said at the protests: “Long live Kabylie, which carries the torch of democracy.”

Fellow activist Bilal Bilal said: “We are all brothers. Congratulations to the Algerian people and long live Algeria.”

The political deadlock continues with the military-backed interim President Abdelkader Bensalah refusing to step down and make way for civilian democracy.

Elections planned for July 4 were scrapped for lack of popular support and no new date has been named.

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