March 10, 2019 (Reuters) – President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is expected to return to Algeria on Sunday after two weeks in a Swiss hospital, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters, as he faces mass protests that pose the biggest threat to his 20-year-old rule.
An Algerian government plane landed at Geneva’s Cointrin airport. A Reuters witness saw the Gulfstream executive jet, the one which had brought Bouteflika to Geneva on Feb. 24, touch down at the airport amid a heavy police presence.
There was no immediate sign of any ambulance or motorcade carrying the 82-year-old Bouteflika.
The ailing president has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013. Tens of thousands of people of all social classes have protested over the past three weeks over his decision to stand in April’s election.
Hundreds of students took to the streets of the capital chanting “Bouteflika, there will be no fifth term” on Sunday. Many shops in Algiers are closed.
Several public figures, including members of his ruling FLN party and lawmakers have resigned to join the rallies against a political system dominated by veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France.
Two branches of the powerful Algerian labor union UGTA, representing tens of thousands of workers, also opposed the re-election plan. Lawyers have also joined rallies.
Algerians desperate for jobs and angry at unemployment, corruption and an elderly elite show no sign of backing down despite Bouteflika’s offer to limit his term after the election.
Algerians packed central Algiers to capacity on Friday in the biggest protests in the capital in 28 years. Security forces detained 195 people, state television said, citing offences such as looting.