Amira Bouraoui case: Algiers multiplies arrests

After the hunt, the reprisals

Amira Bouraoui case: Algiers multiplies arrests

After the hunt, the reprisals. The case of Amira Bouraoui, this Algerian opponent, holder of a French passport, whose deportation to Algiers was prevented by France on February 6 when she had just taken refuge in Tunis, is taking a legal turn. On Sunday February 19, her cousin, the taxi driver who drove the activist to Tunis, a border police warrant officer and the journalist Mustapha Bendjama, an acquaintance of Ms. Bouraoui, were placed on a warrant of committal. The mother of the activist is, meanwhile, under judicial supervision.

All these people are prosecuted, according to the indictment drawn up in Annaba (town where Ms. Bouraoui's family is from and from where she left for Tunis), for "association of criminals with the aim of executing the crime of illegal immigration within the framework of a criminal organization". Clearly, justice accuses them of having helped Amira Bouraoui to flee the country. Since her return to France, the Algerian authorities have been trying to understand how she was able to cross the border even though she is subject to a ban on leaving the territory.

Algiers went so far as to "strongly protest against the clandestine and illegal exfiltration of an Algerian national". This case led to the recall of the Algerian ambassador to France "for consultations". A dispatch from the official Algérie Presse Service agency castigated "the French spooks" of the General Directorate of External Security (DGSE) who "seek a definitive break with Algeria". "This whole DGSE thing doesn't add up. Unless you accuse my mother of being a member, bitterly points out to World Amira Bouraoui. The authorities lost face by recalling the Algerian ambassador for nothing. They have lost face internationally and all this propaganda has only an internal purpose. I am neither the first nor the last opponent to leave this country. »

As she has repeatedly recalled, Ms. Baraoui, 46, left Algeria by crossing the Oum Teboul border post in a shared taxi using her 71-year-old mother's passport. “It was very cold that day, I was bundled up. You couldn't tell if I was an elderly lady, she says. My mother has to report to court every fortnight pending the investigation. I don't know what they mean by instruction. This is what it is to be the mother of an activist in a dictatorship,” she adds. Ms. Bouraoui also claims to have never met the taxi driver before or to have revealed his identity. And concerning the journalist, "I did not meet Mustapha Bendjama and I did not speak to him on my way to Tunis", she says.

"harassment of justice"

For years, Mr. Bendjama has been in the sights of the authorities. Editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper in Annaba, Le Provincial, he was arrested on February 8. Since the Hirak - the peaceful popular "movement" which shook Algeria from February 16, 2019 and which ended the reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika -, "he has suffered harassment from the justice system. He chained the judicial controls, says one of his Algerian colleagues. He revealed several cases which disturbed the local authorities and in particular the wali [prefect]. We've been trying to catch him for a long time."

But the story does not end there. By forcing Mustapha Bendjama to provide them with the code unlocking his phone, the gendarmes embarked on a hunt for sources for the young journalist, unrelated to the Bouraoui affair. According to the Algerian online media Interlignes, the researcher Raouf Farrah who was passing through Annaba - he lives in Tunis - was arrested on February 14 and prosecuted for "receiving funds from abroad for the purpose of carrying out acts to public order" and "publication of classified information on the Internet". His father was also charged with "participation in receiving funds from abroad".

Does Raouf Farrah pay for his work as a researcher for the NGO Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime? Or his membership in Ibtykar, a citizens' movement in favor of political and individual freedoms in Algeria? Disturbingly, on February 18, a collective work on the Hirak coordinated by the researcher was released in Algiers: Algeria: the future at stake, an essay on the perspectives of a country in suspense (Koukou editions). Among the twenty contributors, we find Mustapha Bendjama.

The exploitation of Mr. Bendjama's phone has also led to another case, for which he is also worried: supposed exchanges with Abdou Semmar, a journalist who has taken refuge in France and is wanted by the Algerian courts. Two other people have been charged.