Third Algerian protest figure detained within a week

An Algerian court on Thursday ordered the pre-trial detention of a leading figure in protests that have gripped Algeria for nearly seven months, one of his lawyers said.

Former state TV journalist Fodil Boumala was arrested on Wednesday evening in front of his home in an eastern suburb of the capital, his lawyer Abdelghani Badi said on Facebook.

Boumala was detained pending trial on accusations of “undermining national unity” after a hearing with an investigative judge at an Algiers court, his lawyer added.

He is the third protest movement figure to be detained on the same charge within a week, following Karim Tabou a week ago and Samir Benlarbi on Tuesday.

The arrests come as the army toughens its line on the demonstrations that have regularly thronged the streets of Algiers and other areas since late February, continuing despite the April resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years in power.

On Wednesday, the military ordered police to block protesters from outside the capital entering Algiers, days after a presidential election was announced for December despite pushback from demonstrators.

Army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah has led the push for polls by the end of the year.

But protesters have demanded political reforms and the removal of the former president’s loyalists – including Gaid Salah himself – before any legitimate vote can be held.

The police have made multiple arrests in Algiers before the start of Friday rallies in recent weeks.

Officially, demonstrations had been banned in Algiers since 2001, but the prohibition had been ignored since the demonstrations started in February against the ailing Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term.

According to the coordinator of the National Committee for the Release of Prisoners, 22 protestors arrested last Friday were placed in pre-trial detention on Sunday.

In Relizane, 300km west of Algiers, two people were killed in overnight clashes between security forces and protesters angered by the death of a teenager in an accident involving a police car, the prosecution said Thursday.

The fighting broke out as the demonstrators tried to storm the town’s police station and find the police officer who had been driving the car when it hit the 15-year-old’s motorbike, killing him.

Two people wounded during the clashes later died, the prosecution said.