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News :: Media
Algerians for Amnesty
30 Sep 2005
Algerians for Amnesty
Algiers, Sep 30 (Prensa Latina) Algerian Interior Minister Noureddine Zerhouni said Friday that voters have overwhelmingly approved a partial amnesty for hundreds of Muslim fighters intended to end more than a decade of civil war.

Addressing a news conference on Friday, Zerhouni said that 97.4 percent voted yes, adding that almost 80% of the country┬┤s 18.3 million eligible voters took part.

The Thursday referendum was on whether to approve a charter for peace and national reconciliation.

Algerians massively turned out to vote on the peace charter presented by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as the only hope of ending a conflict that has left 150,000 dead.

In a statement on public television on Friday, Zerhouni said that strong turnout bears witness to the will of the Algerian people to resolve once and for all the crisis in Algeria.

Bouteflika launched a civil reconciliation initiative at the start of his first five-year term in 1999, leading to a partial amnesty for thousands of Muslim fighters who laid down their arms.

The programme was endorsed overwhelmingly in a referendum, and Bouteflika was re-elected in 2004 largely because the peace initiative helped quell the fighting that erupted after the army cancelled an election in 1992.

However, opposition and human-rights groups urged voters to reject the charter saying it merely sweeps years of suffering under the carpet and gives the president new powers.

Algeria's opposition Socialist Forces Front (FFS) says it cannot endorse a text that glorifies force and deprecates political mediation, consecrates impunity and amnesty, and in the end negotiates away pain and suffering.

The independent Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) described the referendum as scandalous and absurd, claiming nobody has a right to vote no.

"We are not against peace and reconciliation, but we do oppose this charter since we don't think it will bring peace," LADDH President Abdennour Ali-Yahia said.

"The head of state will be able to rule by decree and curtail all liberties by claiming that this charter is a people's mandate", asserted Ali-Yahia.

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