Algerian court delays verdict for cartoonist: lawyer

Djamel Ghanem faces trial over unpublished drawing of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

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An Algerian court has postponed until March 11 the verdict in the trial of a cartoonist over an unpublished drawing of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the defendant’s lawyer said Tuesday.

“The judge was absent. Another magistrate announced the postponement of the verdict,” the cartoonist’s lawyer Youcef Dilem told AFP after the hearing in the city of Oran.

The prosecution had sought a sentence of 18 months in jail and a fine of 30,000 dinars (280 euros, $380) against Djamel Ghanem, cartoonist for the French-language daily La Voix de l’Oranie for “insulting the president of the republic,” his lawyer said at the beginning of his trial last month.

The case was filed against Ghanem “by his own employer” for a drawing that was to appear in the newspaper on September 30, 2013 but which was never published, Dilem said.

Dilem said the cartoon referred to 77-year-old Bouteflika’s decision to seek a fourth term in office, a move which has caused concern among Algeria’s political class due to the head of state’s fragile health.

Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999, confirmed on state television Monday that he had submitted the documents to run for a fourth term in office.

He was hospitalised in Paris for three months after suffering a mini-stroke, and has made few public appearances since he returned in July 2013.

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