Algeria arrests ‘a cynical Ramadan move’

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National TV in Algeria has broadcast footage of the brother of ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Said, entering a military court along with two former intelligence chiefs in a move designed to impress anti-government protesters.

The former president, who had been in power for 20 years, resigned last month amid demonstrations that began when he announced his attention to run for another term in office.

The demonstrators have since said they want the departure of everyone in the Bouteflika’s circle – and the army chief of staff, Gen Ahmed Gaid Salah, the de facto man in charge, wants to send a message that he is keeping to his promise to meet their demands.

Several high-profile people have already appeared in court, but that has not appeased the anger of protesters, who want a radical change of the system in the North African country.

Adlene Mohammedi, an expert in Arab politics based in Paris, described the latest arrests as a crude move ahead of Ramadan, the religious fasting month when Muslims do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset. It is also a period when practising Muslims reflect on their faith and are meant to curb negative thoughts and emotions.

In a series of tweets (in French), he said that Gen Gaid Salah was trying to “anaesthetise the protesters” by targeting those who have already lost their authority – allowing others in the establishment to maintain their hold on power.

Resignations the protesters really want to see are those of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and the Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The name of Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, a former foreign minister, is now being promoted on social media by protesters who believe he could be the right person to lead the transition and organise elections – which are due to take place a month after Ramadan ends.

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