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Ahead of presidential elections: start of trial of former Algerian regime's symbolic figures

Protests in Algeria

The military court in Blida, southern Algeria, started on Monday the trial of several former regime figures and symbols, including Said Bouteflika, brother and adviser of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as well as former intelligence officials, private TV channels reported.

Police and gendarmes prevented all vehicles as well as pedestrians from entering the military court.

Former President of the Constitutional Council, Tayeb Belaiz, one of Bouteflika's loyalists, arrived at the court to give his testimony.

Said Bouteflika, along with the former director of the powerful intelligence services for 25 years, Mohamed Mediène, known as "Toufik", his successor Athmane Tartag and the head of the Trotskyist Workers' Party, Louisa Hanoune, have all been brought before the court, according to Ennahar TV and El Bilad TV.

Said Bouteflika and the two former intelligence directors were detained on 5 May, while Hanoune was placed on remand on 9 May.

The military judiciary accused them of, "conspiring against the army and the state authorities", charges for which they may face a prison sentence of five to ten years, according to the Military Justice Law and the Criminal Law.

Unprecedented protests started in Algeria on 22 February, forcing Abdelaziz Bouteflika to relinquish his candidacy for a fifth term and then resign on 2 April, after two decades in his position.

READ: 800 toxic substances in food and cosmetics consumed by Algerians

Since then, the judiciary has launched a series of investigations on suspicion of corruption against political and military leaders and business persons accused of taking advantage of their privileged ties with Bouteflika's circles.

Hanoune's defence lawyer admitted that she had participated in a meeting with Said Bouteflika and Toufik on 27 March, the day after Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah publicly demanded Bouteflika to resign.

A few days later, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah accused Said Bouteflika, Mediène and Tartag, without naming them, of meeting to conspire against the army.

During a hearing session held on 14 May as part of an investigation targeting the brother of the former president, Khalid Nizar, who is a former strongman in Algeria during the 1990s, was heard as a witness.

Nizar revealed that Said Bouteflika told him that he intends to dismiss Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah to put an end to the protest movement against his brother.

READ: 2 killed as police disperse protesters in Algeria

Said Bouteflika was the real strongman in the presidential palace, but without constitutional powers.

Nizar and his son Lotfi are equally accused of "conspiring". Since 6 August, the military court in Blida has issued an international arrest warrant against both of them. Algerian media reported that they fled to Spain at the beginning of the summer.

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