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Algeria: Court issues prison sentences, severe penalties for ministers, government officials

Arezki Berraki, former minister of water resources [@dzbreaking1 /Twitter]
Arezki Berraki, former minister of water resources [@dzbreaking1 /Twitter]

The Sidi M'Hamed Court in Algiers has issued a ten-year enforceable imprisonment and a fine of one million Algerian dinars (about $7,000) against Arezki Berraki, the former minister of water resources. The sentence is the first conviction of an official who served in the government of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, although it relates to a period preceding his government work.

In the same case, the former Secretary-General of the Ministry of Water Resources Mustafa Karim Rahyal, who is close to the former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, received the same penalty. Similarly, the former director of the National Agency of Dams and Transfers (ANBT) Qali Abdel Nasser, who is a fugitive abroad, was also convicted, with the approval of an international arrest warrant against him.

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The judgments issued by the court against the rest of the defendants, in this case, ranged from five years in prison to an acquittal judgment after charges relating to squandering public funds, abuse of functions, granting undeserved privileges and other charges.

In June 2021, Berraki was put on remand detention after he was charged with corruption charges linked to projects in the water resources sector. Berraki served in Abdelaziz Djerad's first government, appointed by Tebboune after taking office in December 2019. He was then dismissed after the government reshuffle in February 2021.

In another case that included the largest number of senior officials of the late President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia was sentenced to 12 years of enforceable imprisonment. Both former Prime Ministers Sellal and Noureddine Bedoui were sentenced to ten years of enforceable imprisonment on corruption-related charges.

The former Ministers of Industry Abdeslam Bouchouareb and Abdelhamid Temmar, in addition to the former governor, Bedrici Ali, received 20 years enforceable imprisonment, with approval of the international arrest warrant issued against them, since they are abroad.

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Furthermore, a penalty of eight years enforceable imprisonment was issued against former Ministers of Water Resources Hocine Necib and Berraki (prosecuted in two cases) and former Minister of Finance Mohamed Loukal. Similarly, former Minister of Post, Information Technology and Communication Houda Faraoun and former Minister of Public Works and Transport Amar Ghoul also received four-year imprisonment sentences.

A fine of one million Algerian dinars was issued against all defendants, while the only survivor, the former Minister of Post and Telecommunications Amar Tou, benefited from the acquittal judgement. Those involved were prosecuted on charges relating to corruption, such as squandering public funds, abuse of functions and granting undeserved privileges through the conclusion of public deals, especially in the sectors of water resources, post, and telecommunications.

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