Algeria orders investigation into student police abuse claim


ALGIERS, Algeria — In an unprecedent move, the prosecutor’s office in the Algerian capital has ordered a preliminary investigation into torture and sexual abuse that a student protester claimed during his trial he was subjected to by judicial police.

The claim by Walid Nekiche at his trial last Tuesday drew widespread criticism in the media, along with the prosecution’s request for a life sentence for the oceanography student. Nekiche was on trial for “plotting against the state” and possessing tracts against the national interest for his actions in pro-democracy protests.

Nekiche was finally sentenced to a year in prison with six months guaranteed behind bars and freed because he had already been held in detention since his November 2019 arrest.

But the prosecutor on Sunday ordered an investigation opened into his claims that he had been subjected to “violence and sexual aggression by members of the judicial police” questioning him following his arrest.

The demand for a preliminary investigation comes days before the second anniversary on Feb. 22 since the Hirak pro-democracy movement was born with nationwide street protests that helped force former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to leave office after 20 years in power. Dozens of student protesters were jailed, as well as a powerful coterie of top officials and business leaders for corruption under Bouteflika.

The preliminary probe also comes at a time of renewed political tensions with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune absent for months for treatment for COVID-19 and then follow-up care.

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