March 24, 2020 / 7:04 PM / 9 days ago

Algeria jails opposition figure Karim Tabbou for year-activists

ALGIERS (Reuters) - An Algerian court has sentenced one of the most prominent figures in the protest movement that toppled longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika to a year in prison, leading rights lawyers said on Tuesday.

Karim Tabbou was charged with “weakening army morale” last year after criticising the then army chief, Ahmed Gaed Salah, who died suddenly of a heart attack in late December.

He had become the most prominent figure in the Hirak protest movement, which emerged in February 2019, shaking Algeria’s deeply entrenched political establishment with weekly mass protests that forced Bouteflika to resign.

Abdelghani Badi, a rights lawyer, said in a video posted online that Tabbou had been sentenced to a year in prison, and had been unable to defend himself after suffering a medical problem.

“How can we prosecute someone who can’t speak because he has had a stroke?” he said in the video.

Another rights lawyer, Mustafa Bouchachi, told local media: “This is a scandal”.

The justice ministry has not issued an official statement confirming either the verdict or the sentence.

Protests continued after both Gaed Salah’s death and the election of Bouteflika’s replacement as president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in a vote that was opposed by the demonstrators.

The weekly mass marches stopped on Friday, however, after more than a year of continual protests, because of the coronavirus.

Reporting By Lamine Chikhi, editing by Angus McDowall and Philippa Fletcher

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