A court in Algeria has ordered the release of a prominent human rights activist and key figure in a year-long protest movement demanding radical political change.
Fodil Boumala was arrested in September 2019 and accused of undermining the country’s “territorial integrity”, an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
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The former state TV journalist was also accused of distributing “publications that could undermine the national interest”, which carries a potential jail term of up to 12 months.
“He has been acquitted. He will go home today,” his lawyer, Zoubida Assoul, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency on Sunday.
Boumala was highly active in the “Hirak” protest movement, an unprecedented popular initiative which emerged in February last year to demand then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika abandon a bid for a fifth term in office.
The ailing Bouteflika duly stepped down in early April, as a result of the massive nationwide demonstrations that rocked the country and after losing the support of the military.
Another key protest figure, Karim Tabbou, faces a verdict on March 4, according to Noureddine Benissad, a member of his defence team.
He is charged with “undermining [the nation’s] territorial integrity”, but also accused of “violent actions” that sought to “impede the movement of military equipment”, said Benissad.