New anti-Bouteflika protests rock Algeria's capital

New anti-Bouteflika protests rock Algeria's capital
2 min read
24 February, 2019
Amid a large security presence, Algerian protesters chanted anti-Bouteflika slogans and asked for more freedom before police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
Police said some 800 protesters took to the streets on Sunday. [Getty]

Hundreds of people demonstrated Sunday in the Algerian capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, as the ailing leader was to head for Switzerland for a medical checkup.

Two days after major street demonstrations that took place across the country, police said some 800 protesters took to the streets on Sunday, answering a call from political movement Mouwatana ("Citizenship"). Organisers said 2,000 people attended.

Amid a large security presence, protesters chanted anti-Bouteflika slogans and asked for more freedom before police used tear gas to disperse protesters.

The turnout was much lower than on Friday when tens of thousands took to the streets including in Algiers, where demonstrations are strictly banned.

Security forces arrested more than 40 people after that protest, which saw police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing. 

Security forces, deployed since the early hours of the morning and backed by a police helicopter, evacuated the central square, prompting the demonstrators to head elsewhere.

Joined by hundreds others they rallied along Didouche Mourad, a main shopping street which was closed to traffic and blocked by police, chanting "Algeria, free and democratic".

Anti-Bouteflika protests were also reported in Paris, where hundreds from the Algerian diaspora gathered in solidarity with demonstrators.

Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on 10 February that he will run for another term in office.

The president's office has announced that Bouteflika will travel to Switzerland on Sunday for "routine medical checks" ahead of the 18 April presidential election.

He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment.

Bouteflika is Algeria's longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.

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