ALGIERS – Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said on Thursday that the country’s 19-year state of emergency would be lifted “in the very near future”.
The state of emergency was installed solely in response “to the fight against terrorism” Bouteflika said in remarks cited by APS news agency, denying it had “interfered” with the country’s political process.
Made during a cabinet meeting, the president’s announcement came amid mounting calls by members of civil society and opposition parties to lift the state of emergency in Algeria, which endured a brutal 1990s conflict with Islamist insurgents that killed tens of thousands of people.
Bouteflika said he would task the government “to tackle without delay the drafting of appropriate texts” to continue the fight against terrorism.
He also said protests like those that have taken place in recent weeks were allowed apart from in Algiers, where there is a decade-old ban against demonstrations.
“To be sure, the capital is an exception in this aspect for well-known reasons of public order and certainly not to stop any sort of expression,” Bouteflika said.
The pro-democracy Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) has said it plans a march in Algiers on February 12.
The LADDH forms part of a group calling itself the National Coordination for Change and Democracy, set up in the wake of January riots that left five dead and more than 800 injured.
The group demands the end of the government and the state of emergency.
Bouteflika spoke as mass demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak’s rule in Egypt descended into violence, and in the wake of the overthrow of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in neighbouring Tunisia.