Ex-general who slammed Algeria's Bouteflika freed

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (AFP)
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (AFP)

Algiers - A retired Algerian general, in custody since last September after criticising President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has been released from jail pending his trial, one of his lawyers said on Monday.

Hocine Benhadid was detained after media interviews in which he said Algeria's stability could no longer be guaranteed by someone who was "sick" and the "hostage of his entourage".

Two weeks later, on September 30, 2015, he was arrested and placed into custody.

One of his lawyers, Khaled Bourayou, said Monday's "temporary release" is excellent news and a "triumph" of justice.

There was no immediate confirmation of Benhadid's release, but media reported he had been freed, pending his trial, for health reasons.

Newspapers on Saturday quoted his lawyers as saying Benhadid, 72, had cancer and other illnesses and could die in jail.

According to his lawyers, Benhadid has been accused of "knowingly taking part in efforts to demoralise the army in a bid to undermine national defence".

If found guilty, he could be jailed for between five and 10 years.

Authorities have not said when his trial is due to begin.

Bouteflika, 79, is wheelchair-bound and suffered a stroke in 2013 that has impaired his mobility and speech.

Algerian media and social networks have speculated on who will succeed the man who has led the North African country for the past 17 years.

Opposition leaders have spoken of a power vacuum and said Algeria - which is in economic crisis because of falling oil prices - is run by relatives of the president, including his brother.

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