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Algerian president Geneva lawyer files petition to place Bouteflika under guardianship

A small anti-Bouteflika demonstration in Geneva

Three anti-Bouteflika demonstrations involving 100-200 people have been held in Geneva in recent weeks

(Keystone / Martial Trezzini)

A lawyer has filed a petition with a Geneva court calling for Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in the city for medical treatment, to be placed under a guardianship order due to his poor health. 

Acting on behalf of an unnamed Algerian citizen, lawyer Saskia Ditisheim, president of the Swiss branch of the NGO Lawyers Without Borders, has filed a request with a Geneva court for one or two legal guardians, as she claims Bouteflika's "fragile health" leaves him open to “manipulation” by his entourage. 

Ditisheim says it is “obvious that the Algerian president is currently incapable of judgment, in a very precarious state of health, and that all his actions, including his application to run for a fifth term and his press releases, are not carried out by himself but by his political and family entourage who manipulate him". His freedom of thought is violated, she told the Keystone SDA news agency on Saturday.

It is unclear if the Geneva court will consider the petition. Nicolas Jeandin, a law professor at the University of Geneva, says it is up to the Algerian judicial authorities to determine whether a citizen should be placed under guardianship. But if a Swiss court believes there is an urgent need to protect a vulnerable individual, it could intervene, he told AFP.

The request for guardianship comes the day after Algerian businessman and opposition figure Rachid Nekkaz was arrested at the Geneva University Hospital (HUG), where Bouteflika is reportedly being treated. Nekkaz said he had come to the hospital seeking answers about the condition of Bouteflika, whose bid to secure another term at the April 18 election has sparked protests. 

+ Algerians bombard Geneva hospital with Bouteflika calls

The Algerian president, 82, suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since. He has reportedly been at the HUG for nearly two weeks receiving what his office describes as “medical examinations”.

On Friday, tens of thousands of Algerians packed central Algiers to capacity on Friday to challenge Bouteflika's 20-year-old rule in the biggest protests in the capital in 28 years. 

The demonstrations, the latest in two weeks of rallies across the country against the veteran leader, were mostly peaceful, but police in the evening stepped up their use of tear gas to block the road to the presidential palace. The protestors reject the 82-year-old's plans to seek re-election.

On Thursday, Boutekflika issued his first warning to protesters, saying the unrest could create chaos in North African country.

Keystone SDA/sb

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