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Algerian prosecutor seeks heavy sentences against former prime ministers

The politicians are on trial amid a heavy police presence [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 December, 2019

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The Algerian prosecutor’s office has requested that former politicians, including two prime ministers, who served under ousted President Bouteflika, be given 20-year prison sentences for corruption.
The Algerian prosecutor's office on Sunday requested 20-year prison sentences for several former politicians accused of corruption, including two prime ministers who served under ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, local media reported.

The trial is the first resulting from sweeping investigations into graft allegations launched after Bouteflika stepped down in April in the face of mass protests which erupted in February against his bid for a fifth term.

All 19 defendants - two former premiers, other prominent ex-politicians and automotive industry tycoons - face charges ranging from money laundering to abuse of office and granting undue privileges.

Comment: Algerians, now’s the time to finish what you started

The state prosecutor is seeking a 20-year prison sentence for ex-premiers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, local media reported.

A similar sentence is requested for former industry minister Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is being tried in absentia as he has fled abroad.

It is the first time since Algeria's independence from France in 1962 that former prime ministers have been put on trial. Both Ouyahia and Sellal have denied the accusations against them.

The trial opened on Wednesday and a verdict is expected late Sunday or early Monday, according to lawyers.

Former industry ministers Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi are each facing 15 years in jail, while the prosecution is seeking eight-year prison sentences for other defendants, according to the Algerian media reports.

Also standing trial was Ali Haddad, former head of the main Algerian employer organisation, the Forum of Business Leaders (FCE), and Mohamed Bairi, CEO of the Ival group which owns industrial vehicle plant Iveco.

The defendants also include automotive industry tycoons Ahmed Mazouz and Hassane Arbaoui, as well as former public works and transport minister Abdelghani Zaalane.

Defence lawyers have boycotted the trial, alleging the proceedings are "politicised" and surrounded by a climate of "settling scores".

The state prosecutor has also demanded that the property of the defendants be seized, and called for an international arrest warrant to be issued against Bouchouareb.

Meanwhile, mass protests against the Algerian government are ongoing.

On Friday thousands of Algerians turned out on to the streets of Algiers to demand that a presidential election due to be held on December 12 be cancelled.

The five candidates for the elections, who include two former ministers and two former prime ministers, are seen by protesters to be linked to Bouteflika’s regime. The protesters have demanded that all remnants of the Bouteflika regime be removed from power before elections are held.

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