ALGIERS, March 31 (Reuters) - Leading Algerian businessman Ali Haddad, who was part of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s inner circle, has been arrested at the Tunisian border, a close associate said on Sunday, as pressure mounted on the long-standing leader to resign.
During weeks of protests demanding an end to his 20-year rule, Bouteflika has been abandoned by several close allies but there have been no reports of any prominent supporters being detained before Haddad.
Demonstrators in the North African country, an oil and gas producer, want a new generation of leaders to replace a ruling elite comprised of veterans of the independence war against France, ruling party officials, oligarchs, army officers and union leaders.
“Yes, Haddad has been arrested,” his associate told Reuters on condition of anonymity, without elaborating. Several Algerian television stations broadcast news on the detention of Haddad, a media magnate who helped to fund Bouteflika’s election campaigns over the years.
On Saturday, army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, renewed a call for the Constitutional Council to rule whether the ailing 82-year-old president is fit to rule, a move provided for under article 102 of the charter.
Bouteflika’s announcement that he would not seek a fifth term but that he would not quit immediately has failed to assuage protesters, who want an overhaul of the North African country’s entire political system.
The protests have been largely peaceful but have put pressure on the army to act. ( Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)