Algeria convicts separatist activists for ‘conspiring’ with Israel and Morocco
Algeria has put dozens of members of the separatist Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia (MAK) on trial for allegedly engaging in terrorist and rebel acts that threaten the North African nation’s security and unity. A court in the capital, Algiers, sought penalties for the activists on Tuesday that include life imprisonment, local media reported.
This week’s case is the latest government action against the group, which claims to be advocating for self-determination for Amazigh people – Berber-speaking natives in the Kabylia region east of Algiers – long accused by authorities of having anti-Arab sentiments and criminal intent.
In 2021, the Algerian High Council for National Security designated the Paris-based opposition group as a terrorist organization. In September of the same year, more than a dozen MAK members, including journalists, were arrested for starting wildfires that killed at least 65 people. Members of the movement have previously been accused of conspiring with Morocco and Israel to destabilize Algeria.
Algeria and Morocco have had strained relations for decades, with Algiers supporting the Polisario movement, which seeks independence for Western Sahara, which Rabat considers part of its territory. In 2021, Algeria severed diplomatic ties with Rabat, accusing it of backing MAK and engaging in acts of hostility.
On Tuesday, a first-instance tribunal in the African nation’s capital convicted several MAK members, including its leader, Ferhat Mehenni. According to the Algerian Press Service, Mehenni and six other defendants were each sentenced to 20 years in prison, while 20 others received sentences ranging from three to ten years. They were found guilty of “trading war munitions and disseminating false information undermining state security,” the state news agency reported.
“This criminal group embodies the conspiracy being plotted against Algeria by its enemies by spreading ideas that encourage division, discrimination, and hatred,” a public prosecutor said during the trial, according to the New Arab media outlet.
The prosecutor also reportedly accused the convicted activists of acquiring a “considerable quantity of weapons” and of “plotting with Israel,” without specifying what the conspiracy entailed.
Algeria is one of several countries, including South Africa, that have filed genocide and war crimes cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court over its military operations in Gaza.