Algeria To Lift Emergency Law “In Days”

The 19-year-old state of emergency in Algeria will end within days, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Monday following a weekend in which thousands of Algerians defied government warnings and dodged barricades to rally in their capital Saturday, demanding democratic reforms.

Protesters chanting “No to the police state!” and brandishing signs that read “Give us back our Algeria” clashed with baton-wielding police in helmets and visors. Organizers said more than 400 people were briefly detained, but aside from some jostling between police and protesters no violence was reported.

A state of emergency has been in force in Algeria since 1992 and the government has come under pressure to ditch emergency laws following uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

“In the coming days, we will talk about it as if it was a thing of the past,” Medelci told the French radio station Europe 1 in an interview.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said earlier this month the state of emergency would be lifted in the very near future.

On Sunday, hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators clashed with police in the eastern city of Annaba. Four police officers were slightly injured during clashes with young protesters outside the local government headquarters.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters, inspired by revolts which overthrew entrenched leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, defied a police ban and protested in the capital Algiers.

Widespread discontent with unemployment, poor housing conditions and high food prices sparked rioting in early January across the country.

Local media meanwhile reported that Bouteflika is preparing to make wholesale changes in his government line-up, a move which could relieve some of the pressure on his administration.

“What happened in Tunisia and Egypt is not likely to happen here,” Nacer Jabi, an Algerian sociologist, said.

Opposition groups, however, have announced they will follow up the protests held this weekend by calling a demonstration in Algiers, the capital, every Saturday.

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