Two Algerian opposition figures arrested ahead of elections

ALGIERS, Algeria — A politician and a journalist who are prominent opposition figures in Algeria have been arrested days ahead of the country’s parliamentary election, according to a group of lawyers defending jailed activists of the pro-democracy movement.

The National Committee for the Liberation of the Detained said politician Karim Tabbou was arrested Thursday night at his home in the southwestern suburbs of Algiers.

Tabbou is a very popular activist with the pro-democracy Hirak movement. He previously was imprisoned from September 2019 to July 2020, and spent more than a month under judicial supervision, which prohibited him from engaging in any political activity.

The decision followed a complaint for “assault” filed by the president of the National Council of Human Rights, a government-related body.

An Algerian court sentenced Tabbou in November to a one-year suspended prison sentence for “inciting violence” and “damaging the image of the military.” A ruling in his appeal is expected on June 19.

The lawyers’ group said police also had detained journalist Ihsane El Kadi for questioning at the Antar police station since Thursday night. El Kadi is the director of online news site Maghreb Emergent and Radio M, which gives voice to opposition members. He also is an activist in the pro-democracy movement.

Algerian Communication Minister Ammar Belhimer accused El Kadi of “divulgating information likely to be detrimental to the national unity.” El Kadi was placed under judicial supervision on May 18 with orders to present himself at a police station once a week. His passport was confiscated.

On Saturday, Algeria is set to hold its first legislative election since former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office in 2019 after 20 years in power.

Hirak supporters have vowed to boycott the election, which President Abdelmadjid Tebboune called as part of his pledge to tackle corruption and build a “new Algeria,” as they denounce a crackdown on opposition and increased repression of protests.