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Legend of the mediaAlgerian protesters chant: "Peaceful! Peaceful!"

More than 1,000 Algerian judges said they would refuse to supervise next month's election if President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was a candidate.

The decision of the 82-year-old candidate to run for a fifth term has sparked major nationwide protests, the biggest threat so far for his 20-year rule.

The judges say that they will not act against the will of the people.

Mr. Bouteflika returned Sunday in Switzerland where he was treated.

Tens of thousands of protesters from all walks of life, including students, trade unionists and lawyers, have been protesting for more than two weeks.

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In a statement, the judges said that they should join in an effort to "declare we are the people".

"We announce our intention not to … control the electoral process against the will of the people, which is the only source of power".

In addition, the army chief of staff, General Gaed Salah, said that the army and the people shared a unified vision of the future, reported the television d & # 39; State.

This is the clearest sign so far that the powerful Algerian armed forces show their sympathy for the protests, reports Mark Lowen of the BBC.

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Judges hold placards against President Bouteflika in the city of Annaba, in the north-east of the country

Senior religious leaders have also criticized the pressure on them to issue pro-government sermons.

"Let us do our work, do not interfere," Imam Djamel Ghoul, a leader of an independent religious group, told reporters.

Mr. Bouteflika rarely appears in public and has not spoken publicly since his stroke in 2013.

Many young Algerians are frustrated by the lack of economic opportunities and by what they perceive as the corruption of an elite that has governed the country since its independence from France.

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Legend of the mediaAlgeria protests: what's behind it?

On Sunday, thousands of teachers and students went on strike at several universities.

The president said the protests could plunge the country into "chaos".