Former Algerian prime ministers jailed


An Algerian court jailed two former prime ministers for corruption two days before a presidential election which protesters want cancelled.

Ahmed Ouyahia, a four time prime minister, was given a 10-year jail sentence and Abdelmalek Sellal, twice premier, was jailed for 12 years. They denied all charges, including “misappropriation of public funds, abuse of power and granting undue privileges”.

The court handed 10-year prison terms to two former industry ministers and sentences ranging from three to seven years for five prominent businessmen.

Many former senior officials have been detained as the army seeks to quell mass protests demanding prosecution of people involved in corruption and removal of the ruling elite.

Tuesday’s sentences were the second verdict since September, when a military court handed prison terms to once untouchable intelligence chief and youngest brother of former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Bouteflika resigned in April under pressure from protests. Demonstrators say Thursday’s election will not be fair because some Bouteflika allies are still in power.

The army said the vote will be fair and an election is the only way out of the crisis.

Tuesday’s verdict is linked to corruption in the vehicle assembly business and “hidden financing” of Bouteflika’s campaign for a fifth five-year term in an election scrapped earlier this year.

Among the businessmen jailed was Ali Haddad, a former chief of Algeria’s largest business association, imprisoned for seven years. Former transport minister Abdelghani Zaalane was the only defendant acquitted.

All on trial were allies of Bouteflika and denied the charges. Sellal’s son, Fares, a shareholder in a car assembly plant, was handed a three-year jail sentence.

The court issued a 20-year prison sentence in absentia to former industry minister Abdesslam Bouchouareb, who is abroad. An international arrest warrant was issued by the court.