Algeria recalls ambassador to France over wanted dissident


Algeria has recalled its envoy to France "for consultations" after Paris intervened to enable the exit – via Tunisia –  of an activist and journalist who is wanted by Algiers from the country.

The Amira Bouraoui case threatens recently mended relations between Algeria and its former colonial ruler.

In an official statement, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune "firmly protested against the clandestine and illegal exfiltration of an Algerian citizen" via Tunisia to France.

It said that Tebboune had ordered ambassador Said Moussi to be recalled from Paris "with immediate effect".

Bouraoui had been arrested in Tunisia on Friday and risked being deported to Algeria, but she was finally able to board a flight to France on Monday evening.

A doctor by training, the 46-year-old was sentenced in Algeria in May 2021 to two years in jail for "offending Islam" and for insulting the president. 

She was not, however, placed under arrest pending an appeal.

Bouraoui was subsequently banned from leaving Algeria, and was arrested in Tunisia when trying to board a flight to France, using her French passport.

A judge released her on Monday and she was then taken away by police before obtaining protection from French diplomats in Tunis.

'Very unfriendly'

French daily Le Monde reported that she was made welcome at the French embassy in Tunis before being given "President Kais Saied's authorisation to return to France".

Shortly before Ambassador Moussi was recalled on Wednesday, the Algerian foreign ministry said it had sent an official note to the French embassy expressing "the firm condemnation by Algeria of the violation of national sovereignty by diplomatic, consular and security personnel of the French State".

It accused French personnel in Tunisia of engaging in "a clandestine and illegal operation to exfiltrate an Algerian national".

Algeria says the incident had caused "great damage" to Franco-Algerian relations.

On Wednesday, the French-language government newspaper El Moudjahid in an editorial denounced what it called a "very unfriendly" act towards both Algeria and Tunisia.

The article said "This French policy – of one step forward and 10 steps back – throws cold water on bilateral relations a few weeks before the state visit President Tebboune is due to make to France."

Tebboune is scheduled to visit Paris in May, following a January phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ties between the two countries had been frosty since autumn 2021, but warmed when Macron visited Algiers last August.

To great fanfare, the two presidents signed a declaration on relaunching bilateral cooperation.

The Bouraoui affair

Bouraoui made a name for herself in 2014 with her involvement in a movement that campaigned against a fourth term for the late president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

She had tried several times in recent months to leave Algeria to visit her son, who lives in France.

On Wednesday on Facebook she thanked all those who made sure that did not find herself "behind bars again".

Bouraoui had already served a short prison term in Algeria before being provisionally released in July 2020.

She wrote that she was not going into exile in France and that she would be "back very soon" in Algeria.

This came as the Algerian authorities arrested the chief editor of Le Provincial newspaper, triggering a protest from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Colleagues of Mustapha Bendjama at the newspaper said he has been held in connection with Bouraoui's departure.