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'Not tired yet': Thousands of Algerians protest in first Ramadan rally Open in fullscreen

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'Not tired yet': Thousands of Algerians protest in first Ramadan rally

Demonstrators vowed they would not succumb to Ramadan fatigue [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 May, 2019

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Wearing national flags over their shoulders, crowds gathered around the post office of central Algiers which has become the focal point of demonstrations.

Thousands of Algerian students joined the first rally of Ramadan on Tuesday, pressing on with weeks of protests against the ruling elite after president Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit.

Wearing national flags over their shoulders, crowds gathered around the post office of central Algiers which has become the focal point of demonstrations.

"We will go on with the marches and the protests during and after Ramadan," said Kheredine, a second-year chemistry student.

"It's true that it's hot and that we fast, but we want to let the regime know that the mobilisation continues," he added.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset, but demonstrators vowed they would not succumb to fatigue.

"If you think we're tired, you're wrong!" read a placard held by Sedik Ait, one of Kheredine's teachers.

Student rallies were also held in cities across the country, Algerian media reported, as protesters push for a sweeping overhaul of the political system.

They stand opposed to July 4 elections called by interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, who was appointed after Bouteflika stepped down last month.

The polls are strongly backed by Algeria's army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, once an ardent supporter of Bouteflika who ultimately called for the president's impeachment.

Tuesday's protest comes days after the arrest of the former president's brother, Said Bouteflika, a hugely influential figure who was frequently cited as a likely successor to his elder sibling.

Two former intelligence chiefs, General Mohamed Mediene, known as Toufik, and General Athmane Tartag were also detained and are facing charges including "conspiring" against the state.

Photos of the three were featured at the Algiers demonstration, alongside that of Gaid Salah who is largely thought to have ordered the arrests.

El-Khabar said that the three men faced charges of "interfering with the army's authority" and "conspiring against the authority of the state".

It quoted a lawyer, Ammar Khebaba, as saying that military courts were also investigating possible criminal activity by the men at army facilities. The charges carry a sentence of anything between 20 years imprisonment and the death penalty.

Algerian TV showed dramatic footage of Said Bouteflika and the intelligence chiefs being taken to court on Sunday, interrupting its regular programming. 

Such scenes were unthinkable only a few months ago, when Said was seen as the likely successor to 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013 and has not made any public speeches since then.

Bouteflika resigned on 2 April 2019, after widespread protests following his announcement that he would be seeking a fifth presidential term.

Meanwhile the Algerian opposition said Monday it would not take part in further dialogue with the acting president, Abdelkader Bensalah, and would reject holding presidential elections at their scheduled time in July.

The Islamist Justice and Development Front, which has been hosting weekly meetings of opposition parties, said that it was committed to "ending the remnants of the political authority which has lost its legitimacy and has been rejected by the people" and that any dialogue "administered by this authority” would be unsuccessful.

Acting President Bensalah had said that power would be handed to an elected president following presidential elections on 4 July and called on Algerian political forces to take part in a dialogue "which would provide satisfactory conditions for the holding of presidential elections at their specified time".

Opposition parties have previously boycotted presidential elections, accusing the government of fraud. 

Former President Bouteflika won the 2014 elections with 82 percent of the vote. 

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