Algerian court orders arrest of former defence minister Khaled Nezzar and son

Algerian court orders arrest of former defence minister Khaled Nezzar and son
2 min read
06 August, 2019
Khaled Nezzar was the defence chief when Algeria's army cancelled the electoral process, triggering a decade-long civil war.
Khaled Nezzar is 'on the run' in Spain [Getty]
An Algerian court has issued an arrest warrant for a former defence minister and army chief for alleged "conspiracy", state television reported on Tuesday.

The warrant against Khaled Nezzar and his son is the latest in a series of legal moves against high-profile figures in the regime of ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The former minister was suspected of "conspiracy and breach of public order", the court in Blida, southwest of Algiers, said according to state TV.

Nezzar stood at the head of the army when in 1992 it cancelled the electoral process,  denying Islamist groups a victory at the polls and plunging Algeria into a devestating, decade-long civil war.

The retired general has for weeks been in Spain, where he has been joined by his son, Algerian media reported. 

While Nezzar claims to have travelled to Spain for therapeutic purposes, he said on Twitter late last month that he had learned the Algerian authorities were planning to arrest him, prompting him not to return.

"I was about to return to Algeria when I received credible information about an arbitrary and unfair detention project targeting me," he said. 

Nezzar recently alleged that, as momentum grew in the protests against Bouteflika in April, the president's powerful brother had sought his advice on how to crush the protest movement.

Said Bouteflika had considered declaring a state of emergency and firing former army chief and vice Minister of Defence Ahmed Gaid Salah, Nezzar told the Algeria Patriotique news website, run by his son Lotfi Nezzar.

Despite being a regime mainstay, Salah eventually called for Bouteflika's resignation and now retains his powerful and influential role as Algeria's future evolves.

Nezzar later repeated those allegations in May when he appeared as a witness against Said Bouteflika, who was arrested along with two former intelligence chiefs on charges including "conspiring" against the state and "undermining the authority of the army".

While protesters welcome the arrests of high-profile figures from Bouteflika's regime, many fear such moves are little more than a high-level purge or power struggle between regime remnants rather than a genuine effort to bring about reform.

A Swiss court last year cleared the way for Nezzar to face war crimes charges after he was arrested in Switzerland.

A group of alleged victims accused him of torture and arbitrary arrests in a complaint filed by rights group TRIAL.

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