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Algeria: 4 receive jail time for insulting the president

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune gives an address during the formal swearing-in ceremony in the capital Algiers on 19 December 2019. [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images]
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in Algiers, Algeria on 19 December 2019 [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images]

Four Algerians were sentenced to six months in prison yesterday for insulting the president and spreading false news, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Yasser Kadiri, Said Zegar, and Khelil Kheyi, were sentenced by a court in the central Algerian town of Timimoun.

The trio, who have been in custody since September, were convicted of insulting current President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and spreading false news.

The fourth suspect, Aksassi Elhassane, was convicted further south, in the town of Reggane.

Elhassane, a secondary school teacher, was detained in early October.

It was not immediately clear on what charges he was convicted.

All four are members of the Hirak protest movement formed in February 2019 to demonstrate against then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in office.

According to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees, a prisoners rights group, nearly 90 per cent of the people currently in jail or police custody are connected to the Hirak protest movement.

READ: Algeria sacks transport minister

Bouteflika was forced to resign under pressure from the mass protest movement in April 2019, after nearly 20 years in power.

Protests continued after Bouteflika's ouster, however, only halting when coronavirus restrictions forced demonstrators off the streets in early 2020.

Several Bouteflika-era senior officials have since faced trial on charges of corruption.

Last year, two former prime ministers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, were found guilty of corruption and received 15 and 12-year jail sentences respectively.

The pair both received additional jail sentences later in the year, in separate cases.

However, their sentences were quashed by the Supreme Court in November following a defence appeal.

The pair are both being retried on corruption charges, including allegations they secretly financed the then-premier's re-election bid in 2019.

Ouyahia's retrial started last week.

The former premier has already admitted selling 60 gold bars, received in his official capacity as gifts from the leaders of Gulf countries, on the black market.

The 68-year-old said he had not previously told prosecutors about the gold so as "not to undermine relations between Algeria and certain friendly countries."

He also admitted that he had failed to declare the case to the income tax authorities.

READ: Algeria president returns to Germany to continue covid treatment

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