Algeria judges end strike over reshuffle

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Striking Algerian judges returned to work on Wednesday, a day after their main union announced an end to a mass 10-day walkout over alleged executive interference in the judiciary.

Hearings resumed in Sidi M’hamed court, the main jurisdiction in Algiers, an AFP journalist said, while in second city Oran, some 350 kilometers (220 miles) west of the capital, lawyer Wafa Boukadoum said judges were also back at work.

Algerian judges and prosecutors had begun an open-ended strike on October 27, demanding independence for the judiciary after a massive reshuffle affecting 3,000 judges and prosecutors.

At the time, the National Magistrates’ Syndicate (SNM) decried the transfers by the justice ministry as “a stranglehold by the executive over the power of the judiciary”.

But the SNM said an agreement had been reached with the ministry on Tuesday that would allow judges to challenge their transfers by filing appeals to the Supreme Judicial Council.

It also said the deal involved setting up a workshop to “enrich” legislation on judicial independence.

But in Sidi M’hamed, lawyers told AFP they were disappointed by the decision to end the strike. One alleged that judges had been swayed by a promise of “huge wage increases.”

“They have sacrificed the independence” of the judiciary, the lawyer added, on condition of anonymity. “It’s shameful.”

Judges play a major role in overseeing elections in the North African country, which has been rocked by anti-government protests since February.

The protests, initially against president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, forced the veteran leader to quit in April, but demonstrators have continued to demand sweeping reforms and reject a December poll to select Bouteflika’s successor.

Activists are demanding the establishment of credible institutions before any vote takes place, fearing Bouteflika-era figures still in power will use the poll as an opportunity to appoint his successor.

The protest movement has been backed by Algerians from all walks of life, including lawyers and judges.

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