Algeria police raid book event, briefly arrest French author

Algerian police briefly arrested a French author and her Algerian publisher along with others during a raid on her book event, the publisher told French news agency AFP on Sunday.

Dominique Martre, author of “La Kabylie en partage” (“Shared Kabylia”), was arrested alongside her husband and the owner of the bookshop, said Arezki Ait-Larbi, director of the Koukou publishing house, who was himself detained.

“The police stormed the bookstore at the start of the book presentation on Saturday afternoon and arrested everyone who was in the hall,” Ait-Larbi said.

“We were taken to the police station before we were released at eight in the evening (1900 GMT),” he continued.

The police did not provide an immediate explanation as to why they raided Librairie Gouraya, the bookshop in the eastern city of Bejaia.

Her book, published and sold in Algeria, is a memoir of her time spent with women in Kabylia, a region in the country inhabited by the Berber ethnic group, also known as the Amazigh.

On Sunday, Martre was “still in Bejaia without any restrictions on her freedom”, Ait-Larbi said.

The French national had already presented her book in the capital Algiers last week “without any problems”, he said.

“The book was presented at the International Book Fair (in Algeria) at the end of last year and is normally sold in all bookstores.”

The Koukou publishing house has been subject to censorship in recent years.

In 2022, it said 12 of its books — mainly touching on politics — had already been banned from appearing at Algeria’s main bookfair, SILA.

A February report by Amnesty International said that five years after pro-democracy protests broke out in Algeria, authorities are still clamping down on the right to freedom of expression.

The Hirak protest movement, which began in 2019, led to the ouster of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Amnesty said the Algerian authorities had intensified their crackdown on dissent since 2021, arresting dozens of people including journalists, human rights defenders and whistleblowers.

Algeria ranks 136 out of 180 countries and territories in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

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