Skip to comments.Algeria asks all foreign correspondents to leave the country
Posted on 07/03/2003 7:33:57 PM PDT by HAL9000
Algeria bars foreign press
The Algerian authorities have asked all foreign correspondents to leave the country.
Even journalists who went to the country purely to cover the release on Wednesday of the founders of the Islamic Salvation Front - FIS - have been asked to leave.
The order was given on Thursday morning by an official of the Algerian ministry of communication and culture.
Some of the journalists have left the country already, but others are preparing to leave by Thursday's afternoon.
In the meantime, they have been restricted to their hotels and banned from covering events linked to the liberation of the FIS leaders.
On Wednesday afternoon, the ministry ordered resident correspondents not to write stories related to the freedom.
The order was given by telephone calls to all the correspondents - including the BBC.
The ministry of communication and culture ordered reporters not to say a word about the freedom of the FIS officials.
The expulsion of the journalists comes on the eve of the weekly Friday prayers.
It is believed that the action of the Algerian Government is intended to prevent the coverage of the Friday prayers in case the released leaders decide to show up at the prayers from which they have been banned as a precondition for their release.
The released leaders are banned from all social, political, cultural and humanitarian activities.
At the end of his 12-year detention, Abbassi Madani, one of the two released leaders, signed a document agreeing to submit to all the orders.
However, his assistant Ali Belhadj refused to sign.
He also refused protection by security agents.
Some believe that the government's clampdown on the media may encourage Mr Madani and Mr Belhadj to make public statements denouncing the government - which in turn, may result in them being sent back into detention.
Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Algeria frees Islamist leaders
The top two leaders of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria have been freed from custody after serving their 12-year sentences.
FIS leader Abassi Madani, was released from house arrest and his deputy, Ali Belhadj, from prison in the town of Blida, south of Algiers.
But shortly after their release, the Algerian authorities announced that they were totally banned from all political activity.
The severe restrictions suggest the authorities are still worried the two Islamists may still be a force to be reckoned with, says the BBC's Heba Saleh.
The two men were arrested in 1991 after their party called for a general strike.
FIS went on to score a massive victory in parliamentary elections in 1992, but the result was cancelled after the army took over and FIS supporters and sympathisers became the target of severe repression from the state.
Radical Islamists responded by taking up arms - and the subsequent years of political violence left more than 100,000 Algerians dead.
The Front's own armed wing surrendered two years ago in return for an amnesty.
The two Islamist leaders served their sentences to the day.
Mr Belhadj, dressed in a traditional Algerian grey Djalaba robe and white hat, went straight to his local mosque in Algiers' Kouba district after being released, Reuters news agency reported.
He made no comments before about 100 followers greeting him. There was a large police presence at the mosque, according to Reuters.
The two men face a set of restrictions amounting to a total ban on all political and public activity.
They cannot vote, express political views in public or private, or belong to any associations.
The FIS leaders emerge from detention into a troubled political scene.
Presidential elections are due next year amid signs that the army, the real power-broker in the country, may have withdrawn its support from the incumbent Abdul Aziz Bouteflika, our correspondent says.
Restricting the Front's leaders may be aimed at preventing them from throwing their weight behind any of the potential candidates.
But more broadly, our correspondent says, the army is well aware that the populist rhetoric of the Islamists is likely to retain its appeal in a country suffering from corruption, unemployment and rising poverty.