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01.08.2019 Algeria

Algeria independence war veteran to stay in prison: lawyers

By AFP
The arrest of Algerian war veteran Lakhdar Bouregaa has prompted an outcry.  By Ryad KRAMDI (AFP/File)
AUG 1, 2019 ALGERIA
The arrest of Algerian war veteran Lakhdar Bouregaa has prompted an outcry. By Ryad KRAMDI (AFP/File)

Algeria's judiciary has refused to provisionally release a well-known independence war veteran detained for allegedly insulting the army, his lawyers said.

Lakhdar Bouregaa, 86, was arrested at the end of June for "insulting a state body" and "taking part in a scheme to demoralise the army with the aim of harming the nation's defence".

His supporters have put his detention down to his criticism of army chief Ahmed Gaid Saleh, Algeria's de facto strongman since longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's fall in early April.

"The investigating magistrate... has rejected the request for provisional release made by the Lawyers Collective for Change and Dignity on behalf of Lakhdar Bouregaa", the lawyers' group said Wednesday on Facebook.

The request to release the octogenarian was based on "health reasons, backed up by a medical file", the lawyers said.

The charges -- which could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail -- have provoked widespread indignation in Algeria.

Bouregaa was a commander of the National Liberation Army (ALN) -- which fought the French colonial power -- and a founder in 1963 of the Front for Socialist Forces, one of Algeria's oldest opposition parties.

Ahead of his arrest, he had taken part in the demonstrations that have rocked Algeria since February -- initially against Bouteflika, and then the wider establishment, after the president was forced to resign.

Bouregaa is one of many alleged "prisoners of conscience" that the protest movement is demanding be freed.

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