Algeria activists fear tougher police tactics after Friday clashes

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Algerian women wave a national flag during a demonstration for the independence of the judiciary outside the Justice Ministry headquarters in the capital Algiers on April 13, 2019. (AFP)
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Protesters clash with police officers during a demonstration against the country's leadership, in Algiers, Friday, April 12, 2019. (AP)
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A protester chants slogans during a demonstration against the country's leadership, in Algiers, Friday, April 12, 2019. (AP)
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Algerian lawyers and judges chant slogans and raise a national flag as they gather for a demonstration for the independence of the judiciary outside the Justice Ministry headquarters in the capital Algiers on April 13, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019
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Algeria activists fear tougher police tactics after Friday clashes

ALGIERS: Algerian civil society groups voiced concern Saturday about toughening police tactics, a day after officers in riot gear clashed with protesters, and reaffirmed their commitment to peaceful pro-democracy rallies.
Friday’s initially peaceful rally in central Algiers deteriorated into the worst street violence seen so far since marches began in mid-February demanding an end to the 20-year-rule of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who finally resigned on April 2, and his regime.
Police used tear gas and water cannon and scuffled with demonstrators, who in turn hurled stones and bottles, set alight at least one police car and turned large dumpsters into barricades.
Injuries were reported on both sides, and activists raised fears that the standoff has entered a new phase.
“Friday’s mobilization was different because of the scale of the repression,” according to Said Salhi, vice president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
Demonstrators have vowed to push on with rallies against the interim government of Abdelkader Bensalah and its plan for July 4 elections, arguing that leaders who emerged from the Bouteflika “system” cannot guarantee free and fair polls.
Salhi noted that the mood was different from early Friday outside the main post office in central Algiers that has become an emblematic protest site.
“It usually starts joyfully at the post office, but there was a desire on the part of the authorities to clear the area,” he said.
Salhi said a turning point had come three days earlier when police had for the first time tried to disperse a student demonstration in Algiers with tear gas and water cannon.
Political scientist Cherif Driss said that, while the demonstrations have continued unabated, “the police are trying to refocus, and are beginning to reduce the public space for expression.”
Driss added however that “the response remains moderate and professional, with mostly water cannons and tear gas. There is no brutal repression.”
Police put Friday’s violence down to “delinquents” infiltrating the crowds, and said 108 people had been arrested, while some protesters also blamed “troublemakers” for the clashes.
Driss said it was too early to tell whether Friday’s clashes were the result of “a strategy to limit demonstrations or a reaction to groups infiltrating” the protests.
The General Directorate of National Security reported that 83 police had suffered injuries. It denied having resorted to repressive tactics and said it was merely maintaining public order.
Several protesters were also injured, and at least one was hit in the chest by what appeared to be a rubber bullet, said an AFP photographer.
Activist groups stressed their commitment to non-violence.
“The protesters are very committed to the continuation of the movement in its peaceful form,” said Abdelwahab Ferfaoui of civic group the Youth Action Rally (RAJ-Algeria). “It’s the key to success.”
At Friday’s clashes, some demonstrators had placed themselves between rioters and police, raising their hands and chanting “silmiya” (peaceful) until the situation calmed, AFP journalists witnessed.
“People did not respond despite the repression, we saw citizens defending police officers,” said Salhi.
“But we want to move toward a political solution quickly to avoid desperation. Letting the situation deteriorate until the elections in three months is not a solution.”


Turkey says understands NATO concerns over Russian missile deal

Updated 6 min 4 sec ago
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Turkey says understands NATO concerns over Russian missile deal

  • The deal for Russian S-400 missiles riled Washington, prompting US officials to suspend Turkey’s participation in the US-made F-35 jet program
  • Washington says Turkey’s adoption of Russian missile technology alongside US fighter jets would not be compatible within NATO defenses

ISTANBUL: Turkey is “taking into account” NATO concerns over its Russian missile deal, the country’s foreign minister said on Friday, in more conciliatory remarks over a purchase stoking tensions between Washington and Ankara.
The deal for Russian S-400 missiles riled Washington, prompting US officials to suspend Turkey’s participation in the US-made F-35 jet program and warn of more sanctions against its NATO ally.
Washington says Turkey’s adoption of Russian missile technology alongside US fighter jets would not be compatible within NATO defenses, citing security risks.
“We are taking into account NATO’s concerns. It is not right to say Turkey is not considering them,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference in Ankara.
His remarks followed a visit by Turkey’s defense minister to Washington and a meeting between US President Donald Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law at the White House, where they discussed the S-400 deal, local media reported.
“We don’t find credible the concerns that the S-400 system will allow access to the F-35 technology if they are deployed in Turkey,” the minister said.
He said Ankara was still waiting for a US response to Turkey’s proposal to set up a working group between them to work out differences over the Russian deal.
The S-400 purchase is one dispute fueling tensions between the two nations, who are also at odds over US support for Syrian Kurdish militias who Ankara brands a terrorist group and Turkish backing for US foe Venezuela.
This month, after repeated warnings, the United States said Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400 system was incompatible with it remaining part of the emblematic F-35 jet program.
Turkey had planned to buy 100 F-35A fighter jets, with pilots already training in the United States.
With Turkey in recession for the first time in a decade after a currency crisis last year, analysts say Ankara may look to avoid imposition of new US sanctions that would further damage the economy.
Last year, a trade dispute with the US prompted Washington to impose sanctions and tariffs on some Turkish goods, knocking around 30 percent off the value of the local lira currency.
Local Turkish media have reported Turkey may be considering options to ease tensions, such as the non-activation of the S-400 after delivery to Turkey, or the transfer of Russian missiles to a third country.