PARIS, March 14 France urged Algeria on Friday
to respect the right to peaceful demonstrations and free
expression after Algerian police stopped an opposition march
this week ahead of presidential elections.
Large-scale protests are rare in Algeria where an elite of
National Liberation Front (FLN) party veterans and army
intelligence generals, known as "The Power", has called the
shots since independence from France in 1962.
Algerian police prevented opposition leaders from marching
on Wednesday to demand a boycott of April's election, in which
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seeking a fourth term despite
questions about his capacity after suffering a stroke last year.
Last week, the police also prevented a movement called
Barakat, a small group of protesters including journalists, from
marching in the capital Algiers to call for a boycott.
"We would like freedom of the press and expression to be
respected in Algeria," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain
Nadal told reporters. "The right to demonstrate peacefully is
part of the fundamental freedoms and we hope that basic freedoms
are respected in Algeria like anywhere else in the world."
Many Algerians are wary of any political instability, with
memories of civil war with Islamist fighters in the 1990s still
fresh. More than 200,000 people died in that conflict.
Relations between France and Algeria remain complicated
after the bloody war of independence half a century ago, meaning
that Paris rarely publicly comments on the internal situation in
its former colony.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich)