Key Algerian opposition figure sentenced for ‘undermining national unity’, lawyer says

A Algiers court sentenced Karim Tabbou, a key figure in the Algerian anti-government protest movement, to six months in prison on Wednesday for “undermining national unity,” said one of his lawyers.

Tabbou, who leads the small unregistered opposition party UDS, has been detained since September.

Last week, the prosecutor asked for a four-year prison sentence for the 46-year-old man, who has denied all charges against him.

Salah Abderahmane, one of Tabbou’s lawyers, said that a court in Algiers sentenced him on Wednesday for “undermining national unity”.

He was also sentenced to six months suspended prison sentence.

Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), said that Tabbou would be released on March 26 due to the time already served.

He said the conviction was part of a “tougher justice” and called the verdict “heavy”.

From 2007 to 2011, Tabbou was secretary of the Algerian opposition party, the Front des forces socialistes (FFS).

He has become a popular figure in the protest movement and his portrait is often brandished during demonstrations.

Different case, similar charge

Also on Wednesday, a court in Mascara, in north-western Algeria, tried the figure of the Hadj Ghermoul protest on appeal.

The prosecutor asked that the 18-month prison sentence imposed on Ghermoul be increased for having broadcast videos “detrimental to the national interest”, wrote the detainee rights group of the CNLD on its Facebook page.

A verdict is expected on March 25.

Human rights groups say dozens of people linked to the protest movement remain in detention, although the exact number is difficult to establish due to new arrests.

Mass protests erupted in Algeria in February last year after then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced a candidacy for a fifth term after 20 years in power, although he was weakened by an accident cerebrovascular disease of 2013.

Less than six weeks later, Bouteflika resigned after losing the support of the then army chief in the face of massive weekly demonstrations.

The weekly protests continued despite Bouteflika’s exit and the election of a new president in December.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)