Algerian protest figure sentenced to year in prison

Algerian protest figure sentenced to year in prison

An Algerian appeals court on Tuesday sentenced a key figure in the country's anti-government protest movement to a year in prison, a lawyer and a rights group said.

Karim Tabbou has played a leading role in the mass protests that have rocked the North African country for more than a year.

On March 11 he was handed six months in prison and an additional six-month suspended sentence for "undermining national unity".

The Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) said at the time he would be released on March 26 for time served since he was detained in September.

But on Tuesday morning, his lawyers were summoned to an unscheduled court hearing.

"The judge didn't want to listen, and withdrew to deliberate," defence lawyer Amine Sidhom told AFP.

"When he got out, he announced a sentence of a year in prison."

Said Salhi, vice-president of LADDH, told AFP he was "shocked".

"We are stunned by what is happening, not only to Karim Tabbou but to the Algerian justice system. It's beyond comprehension," he said.

LADDH confirmed the one-year sentence for Tabbou, whose portrait is often held aloft at protests.

Vast demonstrations broke out in Algeria in February last year after then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced a bid for a fifth term after 20 years in power.

He stepped down in April after losing the support of the army, but protesters have continued to hold mass rallies demanding a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system.

Rights groups say several dozen people connected with the protest movement remain in detention, though the exact number is difficult to establish due to rearrests.