Algeria investigates defection to France of prominent rights activist

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Algerian authorities have detained and charged several people as part of an investigation into how rights activist Amira Bouraoui defied a travel ban and arrived in France, causing a diplomatic row between the two countries, which had been working on repairing ties.

The Geneva-based Global initiative against transnational organised crime (GI-TOC) said Wednesday that senior analyst Raouf Farrah, along with his father Sebti Farrah, and seven other people, had appeared in court over the weekend after being held in custody.

The arrests were made as part of Algeria’s investigation into how Amira Bouraoui had defied a travel ban and went to France via Tunisia.

Leaving Algeria

A Franco-Algerian doctor, Bouraoui was a prominent figure in the 2014 protest movement against then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fourth term in office. She was also involved in the Hirak protest movement that resulted in the army removing Bouteflika from power in 2019.

She was sentenced in June 2020 to a year in prison for organising protests as well as “offending Islam” and insulting the president.

Granted provisional release the following month, pending an appeal, she was subsequently banned from leaving Algeria.

Earlier this month, on 3 February, Bouraoui was arrested in Tunisia and faced deportation back to Algeria, but flew to France using her French passport three days later, on 6 February.

Algeria accused France of assisting her departure, calling it a “clandestine and illegal exfiltration” in an official statement soon after the incident.

It recalled its ambassador to France, said Moussi, over the incident, which again raised tensions after another diplomatic incident in 2021, and as French President Macron has attempted to address France’s colonial past in Algeria.

‘Criminal network’

Bouraoui said she left Algeria on her own.

“Nobody helped me,” Bouraoui told TV5Monde television.

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Space pods and flying dragons. How Saudi Arabia wants to transform its capital

Abu Dhabi, UAE CNN  —  It looks like a city out of a science fiction movie: Space pods, flying dragons and floating rocks. But this is the birthplace of Islam, saudi-arabia-quest-visit-now/index.html”Saudi Arabia, which wants to transform its capital into one of “the most livable cities on Earth.”

The kingdom is building a new downtown in the capital Riyadh, its sovereign wealth fund announced on Friday. Spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the “New Murabba” (new square) project is meant to expand the capital by some 19 square kilometers (4,695 acres) to accommodate hundreds of thousands of residents.

At the heart of the project is the “Mukaab,” a 400-meter (1,312-foot) high, 400-meter wide and 400-meter-long cube that is big enough to fit 20 Empire State buildings. It offers “an immersive experience” with landscapes changing from outer space to green vistas, according to Public Investment Fund (PIF), the MBS-led $620-billion sovereign wealth fund. The project is due to be completed in 2030.

Holographic technology is meant to offer “a new reality” to consumers as they shop and dine. The building also includes recreational facilities as well as hotels and residential units.

Saudi Arabia, which has been the subject of bad press for decades due to human rights violations, has embarked on an ambitious project to diversify the economy away from oil and shed its image as a conservative, closed-off state.

“Back in the day, you would have negative discussions about Saudi Arabia affiliated to human rights abuses,” said Andreas Krieg, research fellow at the King’s College London Institute of Middle Eastern Studies. “But now they’re trying to push new narratives of being a country of development and one that can build futuristic cities.”

But some analysts say Saudi Arabia has serious regional

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