Algeria flag tearing trial adjourned

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Casablanca, Morocco -

The trial of a Moroccan protester who broke into the compound of Algeria's consulate in Casablanca and tore down the country's flag during a diplomatic row was adjourned on Thursday until November 28.

The incident occurred on November 1 at a demonstration against comments by Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika over the disputed Western Sahara, and a video of it was widely circulated on Moroccan websites.

The accused, named only as Hamid N, appeared in court, charged with “invading a private property,” after he managed to scale the walls of the consulate and remove the flag.

The trial was swiftly adjourned after defence lawyer Salaheddine Benabdellah asked for more time to prepare his case.

Outside the Casablanca court, around 50 members of Morocco's “Royalist Youth” movement gathered to express their support for the defendant, waving Moroccan flags and pictures of the royal family, an AFP journalist reported.

The protest at the Algerian mission came in response to a speech read out in Bouteflika's name at a meeting in Abuja last month, in which he stated that an international mechanism to monitor human rights in Western Sahara was needed “more than ever.”

Bouteflika also referred to “massive and systematic human rights violations that take place inside the occupied territories to suppress the peaceful struggle” of the Sahrawi people.

Rabat recalled its ambassador to Algiers in protest, while Algeria sharply criticised the incident at its Casablanca consulate and summoned the Moroccan ambassador to the foreign ministry in Algiers.

The North African arch-rivals have quarrelled for decades over Western Sahara.

Morocco annexed the phosphate-rich territory in 1975 in a move never recognised by the international community and often reacts angrily if the sovereignty it claims over the region is challenged.

Algeria has historically supported the pro-independence Polisario Front, which rejects Morocco's proposal of broad autonomy for the region. - Sapa-AFP


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