Algeria: Free Activist Granted Refugee Status in Tunisia
Yesterday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Algerian authorities should release an Algerian activist, Slimane Bouhafs, immediately. He disappeared from Tunisia a year ago and is detained and undergoing investigation by an Algerian court. Algerian authorities should ensure his freedom to go away from the country.
Slimane had been living as a refugee in Tunisia and, under unclear circumstances, reappeared in Algerian police custody.
His forced return to Algeria and apparent abduction should be investigated by Tunisian authorities and hold to account anyone found responsible.
The Amnesty International deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Amna Guellali
said, “Slimane Bouhafs fled Algeria after persecution by authorities, and the UN refugee agency in Tunisia granted him international protection in Tunisia.”
“The last place Bouhafs should be is back in an Algerian prison, facing possible trial.”
On August 25 2021, unknown men dressed in civilian clothes surfaced at Slimane’s home in Tunis, forcefully took him into a car, and drove off, the Bouhafs family said.
Bouhafs, on September 1, 2021, emerged in an Algerian court, where a criminal case investigation was opened against him by a judge for alleged links to the Self-Determination of Kabylie Movement (a group considered a terrorist organization by Algeria) and also Facebook posts in context to grow criminalization of peaceful activism.
He has been previously jailed for two years by the Algerian authorities for comments on Facebook that were deemed offensive to Islam.
Bouhafs, age 55, is an Amazigh (Berber) activist and also a Christian convert. He was sentenced to three years in prison by an Algerian court in 2016 under the code which criminalizes insulting Prophet Mohamed publicly and denigrating Islam.
Slimanes’ family said that he suffered ill-treatment in prison. He was freed in 2018 by presidential pardon, moved to Tunisia, and applied for asylum with UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency).
Bouhafs’ family shared a support letter from a human rights group in Algeria with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which said that Bouhafs feared that he might be prosecuted again by Algerian courts in retaliation for his activism.
In 2020, UNCHR granted him asylum under an agreement between the Tunisian authorities and UNCHR
Bouhafs’ family said a bag was put over his head by people who abducted him, used a car to take him over the Algeria border, took him to a police facility in Algiers, and was threatened during the ride. Bouhafs’ family didn’t know his whereabouts for four days.
On August 29, the family heard Bouhafs’ was held in an Algiers police station through informal contact.
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