Two former Algerian prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, tried for corruption in Algiers, were sentenced to 15 and 12 years in prison respectively in a landmark trial, an AFP journalist said.
The announcement of these verdicts comes two days before the presidential election, overwhelmingly rejected by the street criticizing the candidates who have all been closely or indirectly associated with the power of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Messrs. Ouyahia and Sellal, close to Bouteflika, in power for 20 years before being forced in April to resign by a popular movement of unprecedented contestation, had been judged for a week with other former senior political leaders and major bosses for malpractices in the automotive sector.
Abdeslam Bouchouareb, former Minister of Industry fleeing abroad, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison. Two other former industry ministers Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Former prefect, Nouria Yamina Zerhouni, who appeared free unlike her co-defendants, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Former President of the Forum of Business Leaders (FCE), the main employers’ organization of the country, Ali Haddad, CEO of the No. 1 private construction Algerian was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Three other businessmen, Ahmed Mazouz, Hassen Arbaoui and Mohamed Bairi, owners of vehicle assembly plants, were sentenced to seven years, six years and three years in prison, respectively.
Pursued for the secret funding of Bouteflika’s campaign, Abdelghani Zaalane, former Minister of Transport and former campaign director of Mr Bouteflika for the April 2019 presidential election finally canceled, was acquitted.
The property of all the officials and their families have been confiscated, the judge said.
This is the first time since independence in 1962 that leaders of this rank were judged. The trial was the first in a series of large-scale investigations into alleged corruption, initiated by President Bouteflika’s forced departure, and suspected of opportunistically serving up post-Bouteflika clan fighting.