Algerian students back on the streets despite police deployment

Algiers (AFP) –


Thousands of Algerian students chanting "peaceful" rallied Tuesday in the capital as they defiantly faced police officers who barred them from reaching the focal point of weeks of protests.

"We will continue to march until a transitional (authority) led by clean politicians is set up," Mira Laifa, a medical student, said as she took part in the demonstration.

"We will continue what we have started," added fellow university student Linda.

Police were massively deployed around Algiers' iconic post office building, preventing the protesters from reaching what has become the emblematic point of rallies since anti-government demonstrations first erupted in February.

Algerians are demanding a complete overhaul of the political system in the North African country, including the ouster of an interim government that was set up after veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned last week.

They are demanding that regime stalwarts be excluded from any political transition in the country, where presidential elections are due to take place on July 4 according to acting president Abdelkader Bensalah.

Tuesday's protest came as state television reported that the head of the constitutional council tasked with vetting election candidates had stepped down.

Tayeb Belaiz was one of the many top figures facing the ire of protesters in Algeria.

Demonstrators fear that the election will not be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as those of the Bouteflika regime.

"Free Algeria," chanted the students on Tuesday.

"Algerian students want a transitional government," read a sign held up by protesters, as the crowds shouted "the people want them all to leave" in reference to the interim authorities.

Meanwhile students from a dozen universities told AFP that their campuses were on strike and would remain closed until the political system is changed.