Algeria government 'slipping deeper into repression', Amnesty International warns
Amnesty International accused the Algerian government of suppressing peaceful protests on Wednesday, one day before the trial of four activists from the southern city of Ouargla.
Tahar Belabes, a member of the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed, and three other activists from the group, have been charged with taking part in "unarmed gatherings" after a dramatic protest earlier this year.
All four men face up to a year in jail for taking part in protests against unemployment in Algeria's oil capital, Hassi Messaoud.
"Imprisoning Tahar Belabes and his colleagues simply for taking part in peaceful protests would be an outrageous attack on the right to freedom of expression and assembly," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty's deputy Middle East and North Africa director in a statement.
"Their only 'crime' appears to be that they stood up for the rights of the unemployed. They should not even be on trial - let alone facing a possible prison term," she added.
"The Algerian authorities appear to be increasingly resorting to criminal prosecutions as a means of silencing protesters, signalling a worrying slide towards deeper repression."
Police arrested seven demonstrators took part in a protest against high unemployment in Belabes last Febuary.
The young protesters sewed their mouths shut, cut their bodies with knives and threatened to hang themselves outside a government building in Ouargla.
Belabes was dismissed from his job at a subsidiary of a state-run oil company in 2015 in an apparent reprisal for his involvement in unprecedented anti-fracking protests, which took place in the south of the country early last year.
Protests against poverty, unemployment and corruption are frequent in the oil-rich country.