Algeria: Opposition figure Karim Tabbou released on probation

Tabou was charged on eight counts, including ‘slander’, after he allegedly heckled an official.

Tabbou was summoned to the police station on Wednesday evening to respond to a complaint [File: AFP]

Algerian authorities on Thursday released on probation a leading opposition activist opposed to the country’s forthcoming elections, a prisoners’ support group said.

Karim Tabbou, a key figure in demonstrations that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in 2019, was handed a one-year suspended sentence last year for “undermining state security”.

Arrested on Wednesday night, Tabbou was summoned to a police station to respond to a complaint filed against him by Bouzid Lazhari, president of the National Council for Human Rights, an official body.

He was charged on eight counts, including “slander”, after he allegedly heckled Lazhari in public during a funeral.

On Thursday, the 47-year-old appeared before a prosecutor in Algiers who decided to release him subject to judicial supervision, the CNLD and supporters said.

Tabbou’s detention and subsequent conditional release came as the pro-democracy protest movement known as Hirak has sought to regain some of the momentum it lost when it suspended street rallies just over a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Algeria’s youth is determined to fight for their right to a dignified life,” Tabbou told AFP news agency ahead of his detention.

The Hirak protest movement was sparked by Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.

The ailing leader was forced to step down weeks later, but the Hirak has continued its demonstrations, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

Since the group’s second anniversary in February, thousands have returned to the streets, defying a coronavirus ban on gatherings.

Algerians ‘fed up’

Tabbou said his own party, the Democratic Social Union, was now “the largest political party” in the North African country, despite it being unregistered by the authorities.

His detention comes as activists warn of an increasing climate of repression, with political opponents and journalists targeted in the run-up to the legislative elections on June 12.

Earlier this month, security forces arrested eight people they said were linked to the Hirak movement over an allegedly foreign-financed criminal association.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune this month warned Hirak activists against “non-innocent activities” that “attempt to hinder the democratic process”.

President Tebboune served as a prime minister under Bouteflika and won a presidential election in December 2019, in a poll that was boycotted by the protest movement. Official data put the turnout at less than 40 percent.

In further moves dismissed by the protest movement as window dressing, Tebboune oversaw a constitutional referendum late last year and brought the legislative elections forward, in what he called a bid to soothe the political and socioeconomic crisis.

“This election does not concern us,” Tabbou told AFP.

“The regime mobilised colossal resources to hold a false presidential election, a false referendum – and now it organises false legislative elections,” he said.

Many Algerians were fed up, he said. “We see the country as a barracks”.

Source: News Agencies