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Algeria

Algerian court acquits protest leader

Deemonstrators during an anti-government protest in Algiers, 28 February 2020.
Deemonstrators during an anti-government protest in Algiers, 28 February 2020. Ramzi Boudina/Reuters
1 min

A key figure in Algeria’s protest movement has been acquitted of charges of undermining the state, for which he faced up to a year in prison. Fodil Boumala was active in the 2019 protest movement that pushed then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to abandon a bid for a fifth term in office and step down.

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"He has been acquitted. He will go home today," said Zoubida Assoul, one of Boumala’s lawyers told the AFP news agency.

Boumala was accused of "undermining [national] territorial integrity", which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and of distributing "publications that could undermine the national interest", punishable by a year in prison.

Prosecutors had asked for a year in prison for Boumala, a former state television journalist, who had co-founded an opposition group.

He had been held in detention since his arrest in mid-September.

A ruling on another key protest figure, Karim Tabbou, also charged with undermining national territorial integrity, and also accused of similar crimes, is expected on Wednesday, 4 March.

Though Bouteflika stepped down in April 2019, the protest movement continued. The army toughened its line on demonstrators and increased arrests of protesters in June.

In early February the CNLD prisoners' rights group said 142 members of the Hirak protest movement were still in preventive detention.

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