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FIS Leaders Arrested
The regime has also moved systematically to round up the party leadership. The first to be seized was Abdelkader Hachani, who had been deputized last summer by imprisoned FIS leaders Madani and Belhadj to head the party. Hachani had been jailed most recently on September 27, after giving a sermon in as-Sunna mosque, on charges of "attacking institutions" and "incitement to violence." He was released one month later after the charges were dropped.
On January 22, police arrested Hachani on the basis of a complaint from the Ministry of Defense that a communiqué appearing in that day's al-Khabar newspaper "called for rebellion in the army." The communiqué was signed by Hachani and dated January 18. Entitled "Call to the National Popular Army," it read, in part,
The FIS has not stopped trying doing whatever it could to save Algeria from sliding toward a confrontation between the people and the army....The army belongs to Algeria and Islam" [and is] the shock troops of God for defending Islam and a Muslim Algeria....The National Popular Army [ANP] has committed itself before God, the people, and the world to protect the Constitution and to permit no one to seek power outside the framework of a free and popular choice. It is inconceivable that it would submit to the wishes of a junta that defies the Shari'a, the choice of the people, and the Constitution.
The ANP faces a difficult test: should it side with the people, who give it men and equipment in time of peace and of war, or should it side with a clique of leaders whose livelihood is despotism and arrogance on earth, and who do not hesitate to send the homeland's defenders to murder the homeland's children?
The ANP has a historic responsibility to defend the unity of the country, its security and stability. It can accomplish this only by renouncing its allegiance to despots...and by the sincere defense of Islam, the cement of the nation; of the integrity of the territory of Algeria; and of the people's choice, which was expressed in the elections of 26 December.
[The FIS] salutes a Muslim army that resists taking part in a war among Muslims, the causes of which have been wholly fabricated by the ruling clique that treats people as minors, made itself their regent, and confiscated their right to self-determination.
[The FIS] salutes the vigilant army that refuses to let the plotters against the army, the people and Islam provoke a confrontation.
This communiqué appeared as an advertisement in al-Khabar and was then posted on walls in mosques and in public places around the country. The state-run Algérie Presse Service has reported many arrests of persons accused of posting the communiqué.
Hachani has been remanded in Serkadji civilian prison awaiting formal charges. According to Abdennour Ali Yahia, one of Hachani's lawyers, the FIS leader may also face charges in connection with sermons in which he allegedly called on soldiers to disobey orders from the regime.
Middle East Watch calls for the immediate release of Hachani, as well as those who were arrested for posting the communiqué, on the grounds that the writing and the dissemination of the communiqué are acts of nonviolent expression. While the communiqué bearing Hachani's signature may be regarded as an attempt to persuade soldiers to disobey their orders, its appearance in newspapers and in public places does not create a danger of lawlessness that is imminent. It does not amount to incitement and should be considered protected advocacy.
On the same grounds, Middle East Watch calls for the release of another top official of the FIS, foreign affairs spokesman Rabah Kebir, who was arrested on January 28. Kebir was widely seen as the de facto leader of FIS after the arrest of Hachani, despite the naming of Othman Aissani as provisional leader. Kebir was arrested shortly after releasing an open letter to Mohamed Boudiaf, the head of the High State Council. The letter and a subsequent communiqué signed by Kebir accused the military of hiding behind Boudiaf to disguise its seizure of power. They likened the voiding of the election results to the French colonialists' rejection of Algerian independence, and condemned the government's announced plan to create a consultative council composed of Algerian personalities from various sectors.
Kebir was brought before a judge the following day and remanded in prison on charges of inciting rebellion against the authorities, according to Ali Yahia, a member of his defense team. Kebir and Hachani are currently in Serkadji civilian prison. They have not been brought to trial.
The police are now reportedly seeking another FIS official, Abderrazak Redjam, for having issued a communiqué urging foreign businessmen not to invest in Algeria because of the coup d'état. This, too, in Middle East Watch's view, constitutes protected advocacy.