Algerian court charges opposition figure: lawyer

ALGIERS (Reuters) - An Algerian court on Thursday ordered a prominent opposition leader, Karim Tabou, to be held in custody on charges of “contributing to weakening the army’s morale”, a lawyer and activist close to Tabou said.

Tabou’s detention follows months of weekly protests that forced veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stand down in April, with demonstrators still demanding a more thorough overhaul of the ruling system.

The Justice Ministry has not yet released a statement.

Tabou, who was arrested on Wednesday, is the second major opposition figure to be put into custody in recent months after the June detention of Lakhdar Bouragaa, a veteran of Algeria’s war of independence.

Bouragaa was also charged with “contributing to weakening the army’s morale” and with “insulting the authorities”.

The army’s central role in Algeria has been pushed into the foreground during the protests, as it helped ease Bouteflika and members of his inner circle from power even as demonstrators called for it to get out of politics.

The authorities are now stepping up pressure on the protesters with a bigger police presence at demonstrations and army chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Saleh is pushing for an election to end the deadlock.

The absence of a presidential vote since Bouteflika quit in April has left Algeria in a constitutional limbo, but the leaderless, loose-knit protest movement has so far rejected an election.

It says any vote that takes place while the old guard, who have held power since independence from France in 1962, remain in place could not be considered fair.

They particularly want Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui to leave office and two senior sources told Reuters this week that he would resign soon.

Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Giles Elgood