Funeral of Algerian activist draws thousands after prison death

Kamel Eddine Fekhar, a 54-year-old doctor, was a leading advocate for the Berber-speaking Mozabite minority.
Sunday 02/06/2019
An Algerian protester marches with a portrait of political activist Kamel Eddine Fekhar, who died days earlier, during a demonstration in the capital Algiers on May 31, 2019. (AFP)
An Algerian protester marches with a portrait of political activist Kamel Eddine Fekhar, who died days earlier, during a demonstration in the capital Algiers on May 31, 2019. (AFP)

Thousands of people attended the funeral Saturday of Algerian human rights activist Kamel Eddine Fekhar, whose death in pre-trial detention has prompted an investigation.

Fekhar, a 54-year-old doctor, was a leading advocate for the Berber-speaking Mozabite minority.

He was buried in the El-Alia cemetery in the capital Algiers, where people gathered by his coffin and a portrait of the activist.

Fekhar died in the Blida hospital south of Algiers after being transferred there "in a comatose state," his lawyer Salah Dabouz said Tuesday.

The activist had been on hunger strike since late March, his lawyer said, when he was arrested for "attacks on institutions."

The justice ministry said Wednesday it had ordered an investigation into the circumstances of Fekhar's death, following criticism from Algerian and international rights groups.

On Friday, protesters rallying against the country's ruling elite held a minute's silence for the activist before breaking into chants blaming the authorities for his death.

Fekhar's lawyer said his client had been held in Ghardaia, 480 kilometres (300 miles) south of Algiers, for weeks "in inhumane conditions."

The activist was first arrested in 2015 during unrest in the M'zab valley, where Ghardaia is the largest city, between the country's Mozabite community and Chaamba Arabs.

After serving two years in prison for public order offences, he was released in July 2017.