Algerian president pardons protest movement activists

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FILE PHOTO: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune arrives for the opening of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa
FILE PHOTO: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune arrives for the opening of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Wednesday issued his first pardon for members of the protest movement that toppled veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika last year, the presidency said.

Elected last December, Tebboune has already urged protesters to opt for dialogue and promised appeasement measures to ensure stability in the OPEC member and gas-exporting country.

He has also drafted amendments to the constitution to boost freedoms and give Parliament a greater role. A referendum over the amendments is due to be held later this year.

The pardon, which marks the 58th anniversary of Algerian independence, included six activists serving sentences for charges including undermining national unity. Several other members of the protest movement, known as Hirak, have been in detention.

The protests broke out in February 2019 to demand political reforms and reject Bouteflika's plan to seek a fifth term after 20 years in power.

The authorities banned the protests in mid-March this year as part of measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Leslie Adler)