Algerian opposition says 5,000 people participate in demonstration

11:24, February 13, 2011      

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Algerian Pro-opposition protestors gather at a rally in Algiers, Algeria, Feb. 12, 2011. Pro-opposition protestors held a rally on Saturday in Algiers despite a government ban and clashed with police. (Xinhua/Khalid)

Algerian opposition leaders said on Saturday that about 5,000 people attended the demonstration in Algerian capital Algiers, while a statement previously issued by the Ministry of Interior estimated the presence of 250 protesters.

Mustapha Bouchachi, one of the leaders of the non-recognized National Co-ordination for Change and Democracy (NCCD) which organized the protest, told Xinhua that about 5,000 demonstrators took part in the march.

Bouchachi added that the security forces have arrested some participants who came from other provinces outside Algiers in the checkpoints on the highways leading to the capital, and the overall number of arrested is estimated at 300.

Ministry of Interior said the police has dispersed the demonstrators and released all of the arrested 14 demonstrators.

Earlier reports said that the Algerian police has arrested the co-leader of the banned extremist Islamist Salvation Front (FIS), Ali Benhadj, after his participation in the march with his followers.

The government banned Benhadj from political activity when releasing him in 2003, after serving a 12 years sentence, being charged of propping up civil disobedience in 1991. In late 1991, FIS won the first round of parliamentary elections, which were then called off by the regime with the support of the military.

Protestors shouted anti-government slogans, calling to bring Algeria into real democracy. However, dozen youngsters have chanted pro-Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika slogans, saying that "Bouteflika is not Mubarak."

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