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Algeria prosecutes 14-year-old girl over connection to Hirak protests

Alongside 20 others, the minor is charged with attending an 'unmanned gathering' as the Algerian government cracks down on pro-democracy movement
The Hirak pro-democracy movement at their weekly demonstration in Algiers, Algeria, on 26 March 2021 (AFP)

Algerian prosecutors have referred a 14-year-old girl to trial due to her alleged connection with the anti-government Hirak protest movement, her lawyer and a human rights group said on Thursday.

Abdelhalim Khereddine, the child’s lawyer, told AFP that she was charged with attending an “unarmed gathering” and ordered to appear in court alongside 20 other suspects. 

However, Khereddine said that he would ask for the trial to be postponed, as criminal responsibility is applied to those who are 18 or older, according to Algerian law, and that the minor should be tried in a juvenile court. 

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Yet he told AFP that “it is a dangerous precedent to place a 14-year-old on trial over political events”.

Vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), Said Salhi, also added that “it's a first”.

“The authorities have crossed a new line in their escalation of repression, and even children aren’t spared,” he said.

He also accused the Algerian authorities of “harassing an entire family... to push Algerians to give up their rights and their struggle”.

The girl’s father is also in jail for allegedly belonging to the Rachad movement, a non-violent political opposition group that was proscribed by the Algerian government in 2021 as a terrorist organisation. 

The Hirak protests

The pro-democracy Hirak movement began in 2019 over then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office. 

A few weeks later, Bouteflika was forced to step down, but the movement continued, now demanding an overhaul of the entire ruling system which had been in place since its independence from France in 1962. 

While the marches were suspended last year over the pandemic, protesters returned to the streets from February of this year. 

However, Algerian authorities have cracked down on the protest movement, with the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD) saying that nearly 300 people are currently in jail on charges linked to the Hirak movement.