The Algerian prosecutor’s office on Sunday demanded heavy jail sentences against former political leaders, including two former prime ministers, and businessmen accused of corruption in a trial unprecedented in Algeria, according to local media reports.
The prosecutor has claimed 20 years in prison for two former prime ministers of ousted former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika: Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal. This is the first time since independence in 1962 that former heads of government are judged.
The prosecutor demanded the same sentence, 20 years in prison, in absentia against Abdeslam Bouchouareb, former Minister of Industry and Mines, fleeing abroad.
Other sentences range from eight years imprisonment to 15 years for two former industry ministers, Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi.
The prosecutor also demanded the confiscation of all the property of all the accused and the issuance of an international arrest warrant against Mr. Bouchouareb.
The verdict will be delivered Tuesday, two days before the presidential election. Speaking for the last time before the sentencing, the main defendants protested their « innocence ».
Abdelmalek Sellal finally broke down, crying in tears, swearing that he had « not betrayed the country » and imploring: « I do not have much left to live. Please judge, rehabilitate me. «
The defendants – including 18 present in the box – were prosecuted for funding « occult » of the last election campaign of Mr. Bouteflika and for favoritism in the automotive industry via partnerships between foreign brands and major Algerian groups, often owned by men related to the fallen president’s entourage.
Called Saturday as a witness, the brother and advisor of the former Algerian president, Saïd Bouteflika, implicated by one of the accused, refused to answer.
More than 830 million euros of loss
For four days, the debates were dominated by accusations of illegal funding of Bouteflika’s last election campaign last spring.
The head of state then intended to run for a fifth term in the presidential election scheduled for April 18, 2019, finally canceled against the movement (« Hirak ») popular protest of the regime, triggered on February 22 by his candidacy.
« The campaign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika has caused a loss to the public treasury estimated at 110 billion dinars », or more than 830 million euros, said Sunday the prosecutor.
The trial is the first in a series of large-scale investigations into alleged corruption, sparked by the resignation in April of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, initially pushed by « Hirak » after 20 years as head of state.
Throughout the trial, which opened on Wednesday in the court of Sidi M’hamed, in the center of Algiers, the defendants have denied all in, without ceasing to discard the others.
« I have been a minister for only two and a half months, » said Sunday Mahdjoub Bedda, former head of Industry.
« I am innocent »
« I swear I’m innocent. I was in charge of the (electoral) campaign for only one week, « said Abdelghani Zaalane, former Minister of Transport and Public Works.
The proceedings were held in the absence of many defense lawyers who had decided to boycott them, denouncing a « parody of justice » and a climate of « settling of scores ».
The proceedings took place during the last days of the campaign for the December 12 presidential election, a vote overwhelmingly rejected by the « Hirak », without whom this trial would never have taken place.
« Algeria before February and Algeria now is not the same (…) We are here to apply the will of the people (…) We want a historic trial and (a) moral for that who wants to learn from it, « the prosecutor said, quoted by the media.