Algeria Detains Leading Opposition Figure Karim Tabbou

Leading Algerian opposition activist Karim Tabbou, an arrowhead in the demonstrations against longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has been detained.

The activist will appear before a prosecutor on Thursday, lawyer Me Ali Fellah Benali said on social media.

Tabbou was summoned to the police station late on Wednesday to respond to a complaint filed against him by Bouzid Lazhari, the president of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH).

Tabbou became one of the most recognised leaders at mass demonstrations that broke out in February 2019 leading to the ex-President’s ouster.

The rallies, led by the Hirak movement, continued well beyond Bouteflika’s resignation in April that year, and were only suspended when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Thousands have turned up in the streets defying a coronavirus ban on gatherings. The protests resumed since the group’s second anniversary in February. They are now “the largest political party” in the country, Tabbou said.

Earlier this month, security forces arrested eight people they said were linked to the Hirak movement over an allegedly foreign-financed criminal association.

His detention comes as activists warn of an increasing climate of repression, with political opponents and journalists targeted in the run-up to legislative elections in June 2021.

Karim Tabbou in the hirak

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune this month warned Hirak activists against “non-innocent activities” that “attempt to hinder the democratic process”.

He has called early elections for June 12 in response to Algeria’s political and socio-economic crisis, but Hirak supporters have denounced the vote as a “masquerade”.

Tabbou said that ordinary Algerians had had enough and that the movement is being infiltrated by Islamist activists who are trying to drag it towards violence.

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