February 6, 2020 / 12:46 PM / 4 months ago

Algerian leader pardons more than 6,000 prisoners in conciliatory gesture

FILE PHOTO: Newly elected Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune gestures during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers, Algeria December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday pardoned more than 6,000 prisoners, extending a process of clemency that has outdone in scale similar conciliatory gestures by his predecessors.

Tebboune, elected in December in a vote rejected by a mass protest movement seeking the total replacement of the ruling elite, is trying to quell nearly a year of political unrest.

The mass pardons this week follow an offer of dialogue with the protesters, the release of detainees arrested at demonstrations, the formation of a committee to amend the constitution and meetings with opposition figures.

Combined with the 3,471 prisoners released earlier this week, Tebboune has now pardoned nearly 10,000 prisoners with sentences of 18 months or less.

His predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who ruled for 20 years until he was ousted in April over the mass protests, freed about 5,000 people in 2017 to mark Algeria’s independence day.

OPEC member Algeria also faces economic problems and increased financial pressure caused by a fall in energy revenue and foreign exchange reserves.

Protesters have been taking to the streets for weekly demonstrations on Fridays, but their number appears to have fallen since Tebboune’s election.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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