'Inhumane conditions' killed imprisoned Algeria rights activist: lawyer

'Inhumane conditions' killed imprisoned Algeria rights activist: lawyer
The lawyer of said Kamel Eddine Fekhar said the detained rights activist died at the Blida hospital after being transferred there "in a comatose state".

2 min read
28 May, 2019
News of the death sparked protests in the capital [Getty]

An Algerian human rights campaigner and Mozabite Berber activist died in pre-trial detention on Tuesday, his lawyer said, accusing judicial authorities of causing his death.

Released in July 2017 after serving two years in prison for public order offences, Kamel Eddine Fekhar was re-arrested in late March for "attacks on institutions".

He was placed in detention in Ghardaia, some 480 kilometres (300 miles) south of the capital Algiers.

His lawyer Salah Dabouz said Fekhar died at the Blida hospital after being transferred there "in a comatose state".

The activist had been on hunger strike since he was detained, the lawyer told AFP.

In a video posted on his Facebook page, Dabouz denounced "this relentlessness and this planned death by the judicial authorities of Ghardaia" who detained Fekhar without reason.

Fekhar had been detained for weeks "in inhumane conditions", he added.

He was first arrested in 2015 on the sidelines of ethnic violence in the M'zab valley, where Ghardaia is the largest city, between the country's Berber-speaking Mozabite minority and Chaamba Arabs.

Algeria's League for the Defence of Human Rights demanded justice and called for "truth about the death" of Fekhar, who it described as a prisoner of conscience.

The Front of Socialist Forces, Algeria's oldest opposition group, called for "full understanding of the circumstances" of the activist's death, which comes after "weeks of arbitrary and abusive detention".

Dabouz said he planned to lodge a complaint against local authorities for "failing to assist someone in danger", accusing the judiciary of letting Fekhar "die in prison".

The news of his death prompted protesters to champion his cause on Tuesday, during weekly demonstration in the capital Algiers.

Protestors have rallied outside the Grand Post Office in Algiers every week since February, forcing veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in early April after two decades in power.

But despite the success in deposing the former president, the protesters have continued to stage mass demonstrations, demanding sweeping reforms as well as the departure of regime figures including army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah and interim President Abdelkader Bensalah. 

On Sunday, Algeria's prosecutor general's office said graft allegations against 12 former government officials, including two ex-premiers and eight ministers, were being referred to the supreme court.

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