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Thousand Algerian lawyers protest against Bouteflika, demand he resign

Protesters break though police cordon to march in Algiers city centre before wrapping up demonstration by midday without incident
Algerian lawyers demonstrate against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers on Saturday (AFP)

About a thousand Algerian lawyers protested on Saturday in the capital to demand the immediate resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power for 20 years.

They gathered in Algiers' centre, the scene of mass protests for the last month, holding up slogans that read: "Respect the will of the people" and "Yes to a judiciary free from corrupt dignitaries," Reuters reported.

Algerians first took to the streets a month ago to protest against Bouteflika's plan to seek a fifth mandate. On Friday, hundreds of thousands protested across the North African country.

"We're here to say 'game over'," veteran attorney Noureddine Benissad, who is also a human rights activist, told AFP.

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"We are opposed to a transition carried out by those in power. Change and transition must happen now," he added.

Another lawyer, Nora Ghidouche, said the demonstrators "represent the people in the face of the law and the people are demanding change".

The protesters broke through a police cordon to march in the city centre before wrapping up the demonstration by midday without incident.

The 82-year-old president, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, bowed to the protesters last week by scrapping plans to seek re-election.

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Still, he stopped short of quitting as head of state and said he would stay on until a new constitution is adopted. The move further enraged Algerians, and many of Bouteflika's allies have turned against him.

Some members of the ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN, have also sided with the demonstrators.

Last week, the FLN showed signs of turning its back on Bouteflika as one senior party figure said in a television interview that the long-serving president was "history now".

The remark by Hocine Kheldoun was another setback for Bouteflika, who had hoped to pacify Algerians by promising to take steps to change a political landscape dominated by a ruling elite for decades.

The powerful military has been watching the protests unfold.

The generals have intervened in the past at momentous times, including cancelling an election that Islamists were poised to win in 1992, which triggered a civil war that killed about 200,000 people.

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