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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK
Algerian Berber stays in jail
A man walks past a street fire on election day last week
Berbers are campaigning for more rights
An ethnic Berber activist is to remain in prison after appearing before a court in Algeria on Tuesday in connection with last week's local elections.

Belaid Abrika is being remanded in custody on 20 charges, including arson and inciting riots, according to one of his lawyers, who said an appeal would be lodged later this week.

Belaid Abrika
Mr Abrika has led the Berber movement for 18 months
Three other activists jailed with him have been released due to lack of evidence, the lawyer told the BBC's Mohammed Arezki Himeur in Algiers.

The four were arrested when they attempted to show support for 13 youths appearing in the court of Tizi Ouzou after being arrested during last Thursday's local elections.

Human rights groups condemned their detention but the government says the arrests were lawful.

The poll was marred by rioting in the Berber region, Kabylie, and 310 police officers deployed to contain the unrest were injured, according to the interior minister. At least 30 civilians were injured.

In the Berber region, politicians had called a boycott of the vote as part of their continuing campaign for greater recognition.

But one Berber party, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), broke ranks and rejected the boycott.

Low turnout

Apart from Kabylie, voting ended smoothly in elections seen as a test of political stability under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

President Bouteflika's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) capitalised on its May general election victory and won most of the votes.

Voters in Staouili, west of Algiers
The vote passed off peacefully in most of the country

The FLN won 33% of the votes, followed by the National Democratic Rally and the Islamist Movement of Society for Peace.

The FFS came fourth with 2.5% of the votes.

Turnout in Grande Kabylie was 7.6%, compared to 50.11% in the rest of the country.

Massacres

Correspondents say that while local elections have limited significance in Algeria, a successful vote is seen as shoring up the president's portrayal of Algeria as a stable democracy, attractive to foreign investors.

Mr Bouteflika has vowed to restore peace to this country of about 30 million which has seen at least 100,000 killed in fighting with Islamic militants since 1992.

However, attacks attributed to Islamic militants have continued, with massacres of civilians routinely reported

A security clampdown in Kabylie in the spring of 2001 left some 100 people dead. Another 100 were arrested.

The Berbers, who have their own language and make up at least a fifth of Algeria's population, are demanding greater rights from the central government.

See also:

10 Oct 02 | Africa
09 Oct 02 | Media reports
31 May 02 | Middle East
19 Aug 02 | Business
18 Mar 02 | Country profiles
18 Mar 02 | Middle East
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