Jailed brother of Algeria's ex-president launches appeal against 15-year sentence

Jailed brother of Algeria's ex-president launches appeal against 15-year sentence
Said Bouteflika, the brother of the former president, had long served as a key presidential aide and was seen as the real power behind the presidency.

3 min read
09 February, 2020
Said Bouteflika is the brother of the former Algerian president [AFP]
An Algerian military court on Sunday started hearing an appeal against the 15-year jail term for the brother of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was brought down amid anti-regime protests last year.

Said Bouteflika, 62, had long served as a key presidential aide and was seen as the real power behind the presidency after the head of state suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit office in April last year following weeks of mass protests against his bid for a fifth term running the North African country.

His brother Said was detained in May and sentenced in September, along with several other high-level regime officials, to 15 years in jail for "conspiring" against the state and undermining the authority of the army.

The appeals hearing opened in the mid-morning under tight security and behind closed doors at the Military Court of Appeal in Blida, south of Algiers, according to local media.

Read more: Algeria buries powerful military chief, but not the system that made him

Also in court to appeal their jail terms were two former intelligence chiefs and a former political party leader.

One was General Mohamed Lamine Mediene, known as "Toufik", who had for 25 years headed the powerful Department of Intelligence and Security.

Also there were his former right-hand man, General Athmane "Bachir" Tartag, and Louisa Hanoune, who had served as secretary general of the left-wing Workers' Party.

All four had allegedly met in March 2019 in a bid to derail plans by the army high command to force the departure of president Bouteflika.

Said Bouteflika allegedly wanted the intelligence bosses to dismiss the army chief of staff at the time, General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Defence lawyers hope the four will be released after Algeria's power balance shifted following the December 23 death of Gaid Salah at the age of 79.

"The person who, in our opinion, was at the origin of these proceedings has passed away," said Mediene's lawyer Farouk Kessentini.

Comment: Algerians, now's the time to finish what you started 

In late December, Abdelaziz Djerad, a former diplomat who teaches political science at the University of Algiers, was named as the North African country's new PM, just weeks after Abdelmadjid Tebboune was sworn in as president despite concerns over the "sham" elections.

The newly-elected president won a widely boycotted December 12 presidential election with 58.1 percent of the vote on a turnout of less than 40 percent, according to official results, in a poll dismissed by protesters as a ploy to consolidate their power.

Tebboune, who has been in politics four decades and held several official positions in that time, as well as the other four candidates who had been running for the presidency, are widely shunned by protesters as “children of the regime.”

Following his election, Tebboune vowed to "extend my hand to the Hirak (protest movement) for a dialogue", appoint young ministers and push for a new constitution.

Algeria is heavily dependent on oil exports and its budget has been hard hit by low crude prices, which could force Tebboune to take unpopular decisions.

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