Algerian protest figure to leave prison by March 25

Karim Tabbou was the top leader of the main secular opposition party, the Front of Socialist Forces.
Wednesday 11/03/2020
People march with signs calling for the release of detained Algerian opposition figure Karim Tabbou. (AFP)
People march with signs calling for the release of detained Algerian opposition figure Karim Tabbou. (AFP)

TUNIS - Algerian protest figure Karim Tabbou, in custody was for almost six months, will leave prison by the end of March after a court sentenced him to six months in jail.

Tabbou, 47, was arrested September 25, a move that shocked opposition groups and the human rights community because he was the top protest figure to be detained amid an unprecedented pro-democracy movement that led to the ouster of long-time Algerian “resident Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Tabbou was a leader of the main secular opposition party, the Front of Socialist Forces, from 2006-11 before splintering from the party to form the Social and Democratic Union.

More than 100 lawyers lined up to defend him at his trial March 4 and hundreds of Algerians filled streets near Sidi M’Hamed court.

The state prosecutor asked Tabbou be sentence to four years in jail after he was convicted on charges of “demoralising the army” and attack on the unity of national territory” and “incitement to gather.”

However, the judge ordered a term of six months. As a result, Tabbou, having spent nearly six months in custody awaiting trial, is to leave prison by March 25.

Algeria President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who replaced Bouteflika after elections December 12, extended his “open hand to the Hirak,” as the pro-democracy movement is known.

Almost 100 activists detained in connection with the Hirak have been released since the election. However, the release of leading Hirak figures without court judgment would have been interpreted as a disavowal by Tebboune of the military command behind their detentions.

Rights advocacy groups say dozens of people connected with the protest movement remain in custody, though the exact number is difficult to establish.

Protest figures Fodil Boumala and Samir Benlarbi were released from prison in late February. However, Benlarbi was arrested again March 7 during demonstrations in Algiers. He and other activists pioneered a weekly protest on Saturdays in addition to demonstrations on Tuesdays and Fridays to increase pressure on the authorities to carry out reforms.