Following his announcement earlier this month that he would leave politics, an activist and businessman from Algeria Rachid Nekkaz who had been detained for calling for a boycott of the nation’s 2019 presidential election was freed on Wednesday, according to a rights group.
According to a Facebook post from the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees, Nekkaz was freed on “humanitarian grounds.”
The 51-year-old has reportedly received a presidential pardon, according to the Algerian newspaper Le Soir d’Algerie. Nekkaz had made an unsuccessful attempt to run for office in the 2019 election.
In a letter from prison published on his Facebook page on January 2, Nekkaz said he had written to President Abdelmadjid Tebboune the previous month to “officially” inform him of his decision to “give up politics in Algeria.”
Nekkaz said in the letter he would dedicate himself “exclusively” to writing, his family and addressing health issues.
He had previously been jailed between December 2019 and February 2021 for “incitement to violence on social media,” where he has a large following.
The French-born Nekkaz was detained once more in May 2021 and received a five-year prison term last year.
Despite having abandoned his French citizenship, a regulation prohibiting candidates who had ever held a nationality other than Algerian had determined that he was unable to run in 2019. Instead, he proposed his cousin, who shares the same name and works as a mechanic.
After widespread protests forced his predecessor to quit, Tebboune, a former premier under longtime dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika, won the 2019 elections.
His government has outlawed the Hirak pro-democracy movement’s protests and intensified legal action against critics, activists, journalists, and intellectuals.