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Algeria arrests prominent war veteran after his criticism of army leadership

The war veteran has been accused of 'insulting authorities' and 'weakening the morale of the army'
Lakhdar Bouregaa, 86, is an icon of the Algerian independence war against France and a longtime opposition voice (AFP)

Algerian security forces arrested a prominent war veteran on Saturday after he criticised the country’s military leadership, his family and state TV reported today. 

Lakhdar Bouregaa, 86, is an icon of the Algerian independence war against France and a longtime opposition voice. 

He was arrested from his home in the Hydra neighbourhood in Algiers on Saturday and taken to a facility run by intelligence services. 

According to his grandson Emad Bouregaa, he was able to contact his family and inform them of his arrest. 

According to state TV, Bouregaa is facing charges of “insulting authorities” based on article no. 144 from the penal code, and “contributing to weakening the morale of the army” based on article 75. 

Bouregaa’s grandson told the DzVid news website that his grandfather's arrest was due to his criticism of Ahmed Gaid Salah, the army chief of staff and former right-hand man of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was ousted in April after a popular uprising. 

"My grandfather said that Gaid Salah wanted to impose his own candidate in presidential elections" to replace Bouteflika, he said.

Bouteflika stepped down on 2 April under pressure from the army and protests that broke out on 2 February. 

The army is now the most powerful institution in Algeria and its chief Salah has urged the judiciary to investigate all people suspected of being involved in corruption.

Bouteflika's youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge for "harming the army's authority and plotting against state authority".

Several prominent businessmen, some of them close to Bouteflika, have been detained pending trial.

Protesters are now seeking the departure of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, both seen as part of the elite that has ruled the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

Authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for 4 July, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set for the vote.

Bouregaa’s arrest has sparked criticism on social media, while dozens of public figures signed a statement condemning the arrest as “a serious blunder”.

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

The FFS expressed “anger” and “dismay” at his arrest.

There was no immediate comment from authorities on the arrest.

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