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Algeria's former Islamist number two charged

media L'ancien numéro deux du Front islamique du salut, Ali Belhadj. AFP / Fayez NURELDINE

An Algerian court has charged the former number two of the country’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) with harming state security and inciting an armed rebellion.

Ali Belhadj faces trial after joining protests over unemployment in the underprivleged Bab el Oued area two weeks ago.

Belhadj refused to answer questions put to him by a judge at a Bab el Oued court and denied any wrongdoing. He was released pending trial.

If convicted he risks up to 15 years in jail.

Belhadj joined youths protesting in Bab el Oued following an appeal by FIS cofounder Abassi Madani who has fled to Qatar. But reports say he was ill-received by the demostrators.

Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia dismissed his attempts at rallying support.

"Every Friday Ali Belhadj goes to a mosque acting as if he owned the place but his audience is pretty limited because he was rebuffed by youths in Bab El Oued when they realised he was out to recruit them like in 1998," Ould Kablia told AFP news wire.

Five people died and hundreds were wounded during the riots over unemployment and high prices which rocked Algeria.

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