Striking trainee doctors brave ban to protest in Algeria

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Algiers - Some 1 000 striking trainee doctors took to the streets of Algeria's capital on Monday to demand the scrapping of compulsory public service in defiance of a ban on protests in the city.

The demonstrators - wearing black armbands or surgical masks emblazoned with "angry doctors" - managed to gather for a sit-in in the heart of Algiers despite a heavy deployment by the security forces.

Surrounded by riot police the protesters chanted for "dignity" as they push for an end to mandatory work placements after they qualify and exemption from military service.

Demonstrations have been banned in the capital of tightly controlled Algeria since 2001 and are usually quickly dispersed.

Police violently put down a protest by trainee doctors in the city on January 3, wounding 20 people according to demonstrators.

Roughly 13 000 doctors undergoing the residency stage of their graduate studies have been on strike for some three months despite the courts declaring their action illegal last month.

They are calling for an end to compulsory public service once they finish studying, which can see doctors obliged to spend up to four years working in often remote areas.

"Our action will continue until we have seen the scrapping of this service," one demonstrator Lokmane from a hospital in Algiers told AFP.

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