Algerian protesters mark arrests


Thousands of protesters gathered in the Algerian capital for the 17th consecutive Friday, demanding removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

After 20 years in power, Bouteflika quit on April 2 under pressure from protesters and the army, but protests continue.

Demonstrators are pushing for radical change and want the departure of senior figures, including politicians and businessmen, who governed the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

There was no official count, but a Reuters correspondent estimated the number of people protesting was more than last Friday. It was less than before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in May.

At the rally they celebrated the arrest of several former officials and business people linked to Bouteflika on anti-graft charges, demanding more action.

“You built prisons, you will all be imprisoned there,” read a banner held by protesters marching through central Algiers, scene of mass dissent since February.

Last week, the Supreme Court remanded ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over graft allegations.

State media said police arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG, at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane in connection with “corruption cases”. It did not elaborate. Volkswagen declined to comment.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption.

Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs are also in custody for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.

Protesters rejected an offer from interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to dialogue with all parties after authorities postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4. No new date has been set for the vote.

“We need real dialogue”, read a protest banner. Protesters reject Bensalah as too close to Bouteflika.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, managing the transition, called on parties and protesters to meet and discuss a way out of the crisis.

He also called for prosecution of corrupt officials.