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Algeria court seeks prison sentence for protest leader

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An Algerian prosecutor is seeking a year’s prison sentence for Fodil Boumala, a leading figure in the country’s protest movement, an advocacy group said Monday.

Boumala, a former state TV journalist who in 2011 co-founded an opposition group, was arrested in September and detained pending trial.

Prisoners’ rights group CNLD said Boumala appeared for 16 hours in an Algiers court, with lawyers from the defence wrapping up their pleas early Monday.

The group said Boumala was charged with “undermining (national) territorial integrity”, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the “distribution of publications that could undermine the national interest”, which can attract a year in prison.

The verdict was delayed until March 1.

Mass protests erupted in Algeria on February 22 last year, in response to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announcing he intended a run for a fifth term after 20 years in power — despite being debilitated by a 2013 stroke.

Less than six weeks later, he stepped down after losing the support of the then-army chief in the face of enormous weekly demonstrations.

The arrests of protesters increased from June as the army toughened its line on the demonstrations, which have continued despite Bouteflika’s exit from the political scene and the election of a new president in December.

In early February the CNLD prisoners’ rights group said 142 members of the protest movement, known as the “Hirak”, were still in preventive detention.

Thousands of Algerians took to the streets of the capital on Friday and Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the protest movement.


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