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Algeria: Trial of former Prime Ministers on corruption charges postponed

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia

On Wednesday, an Algerian court of appeals postponed the retrial of former Prime Ministers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, as well as former ministers and business people on corruption charges during the era of ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

According to the Anadolu Agency’s correspondent, a judge of the Algiers court of appeal, at the Judicial Council, announced that the trial in the cases, known as the car assembling case and covert financing of Bouteflika’s campaign, will be postponed to 26 February at the request of the defence.

Before the start of the court session, several attorneys of the defence team confirmed to reporters that they requested the postponement to have more information about the trial papers, and the court-approved.

Last December, the Sidi Mohamed Court of First Instance in the Algerian capital issued prison sentences against the defendants. However, the defence committee appealed the rulings to the court of appeals. Later on, the judiciary decided to retry the case.

The defendants were accused at the time of abusing their posts, acquiring illicit wealth, squandering public funds, granting undue privileges and bribery, in addition to money laundering and indirectly financing Bouteflika’s electoral campaign and political parties.

READ: Algerian court gives 15-year prison sentence to ex-President’s brother

At the end of the trial, the Sidi Mohamed court sentenced Ouyahia, who led the government several times during Bouteflika’s era, to 15 years in prison, in addition to preventing him from exercising his civil and political rights.

The court issued a 12-year prison sentence against Sellal, who led the government between 2012 and 2017, in addition to a 20-year prison sentence and an international arrest warrant against Abdelsalam Bouchourb, former Minister of Industry.

The court also issued a 10-year prison sentence against former industry ministers Youcef Yousfi and Mahdjoub Bedda. At the same time, ex-Minister of Transport and manager of Bouteflika’s electoral campaign Abdelghani Zaalane was acquitted.

The court sentenced former Minister of Tourism, Yamina Zerhouni, to five years in prison and Fares Sellal, son of the former Prime Minister, to three years.

The court issued prison sentences between three and seven years against four of the most prominent businessmen in the case; namely, Ali Haddad, former president of the Business Leaders Forum (the largest business organisation in Algeria during Bouteflika’s era), seven years, Ahmed Mazouz, seven years, Mohamed Bairi, three years, and Hassan Arabawi, six years. All the business people mentioned above own car assembling factories.

The court also ordered the confiscation of the defendants’ property, in an unprecedented trial in the country’s history since the independence in terms of the ranks of the tried personalities.

The defence of the public treasury said during the trial that the car assembly file incurred losses exceeding $ 1.2 billion, at a time when Haddad disclosed that millions of dollars were allocated to finance Bouteflika’s election campaign for the 18 April presidential poll, which was cancelled later.

According to the case file, there are 29 defendants, 17 of whom were previously imprisoned pending investigation. Thus, the majority of the detainees, who have been summoned by investigators, are high-ranking officials and businessmen in the field of car assembling, in addition to five others, who are on the run, most prominently Bouchourb.

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