Leading Algerian protest figure sentenced to new prison term

Karim Tabbou was supposed to be released Thursday.
Wednesday 25/03/2020
In this file photo taken on January 24, 2020, in Algiers, people march with signs calling for the release of detained Algerian opposition figure Karim Tabbou. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on January 24, 2020, in Algiers, people march with signs calling for the release of detained Algerian opposition figure Karim Tabbou. (AFP)

ALGIERS--An Algerian appeals court sentenced a key figure in the country's anti government protest movement to a year in prison, a lawyer and a rights group said.

Karim Tabbou has played a leading role in the mass protests that have rocked the Maghrebi country for more than a year.

On March 11 he was handed six months in prison and an additional six-month suspended sentence for "undermining national unity".

The Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) said at the time he would be released on March 26 for time served since he was detained in September.

But on March 24, his lawyers were summoned to an unscheduled court hearing.

"The judge didn't want to listen, and withdrew to deliberate," said defence lawyer Amine Sidhom.

"When he got out, he announced a sentence of a year in prison."

Said Salhi, vice-president of LADDH, said he was "shocked".

"We are stunned by what is happening, not only to Karim Tabbou but to the Algerian justice system. It's beyond comprehension," he said.

LADDH confirmed the one-year sentence for Tabbou, whose portrait is often held aloft at protests.

Vast demonstrations broke out in Algeria in February last year after then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced a bid for a fifth term after 20 years in power.

He stepped down in April after losing the support of the army, but protesters have continued to hold mass rallies demanding a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system.

Rights groups say several dozen people connected with the protest movement remain in detention, though the exact number is difficult to establish due to rearrests.

(With news agencies)