Hefty prison terms confirmed for 2 Algeria ex-PMs: judicial source

By: AFP      Published: 08:51 PM, 28 Jan, 2021
Hefty prison terms confirmed for 2 Algeria ex-PMs: judicial source

A court in the Algerian capital on Thursday upheld hefty prison sentences against two former prime ministers who served under ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a judicial source said.

The judgement confirmed sentences of 15 years for Ahmed Ouyahia and 12 years for Abdelmalek Sellal that had originally been handed down in December 2019, the source said. 

The two were convicted in a corruption trial centring on the country's auto sector and the covert financing of an aborted 2019 re-election bid by Bouteflika, who resigned in April that year amid mass protests.

The two men were retried after the supreme court in November annulled their earlier convictions following an appeal.

During the retrial in early January, Ouyahia admitted to receiving gold bars from Gulf donors then selling them on the black market, Algeria's official news agency reported. 

The automobile scandal, in which several businessmen were also convicted, cost the public purse an estimated 128 billion dinars (around $1 billion in today's prices). 

Ouyahia was prime minister four times between 1995 and 2019, and Sellal served from 2012 to 2017 and managed four of Bouteflika's election campaigns.

The protest movement that forced Bouteflika into resignation kept up its demonstrations long after his departure from power, before eventually stopping early last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Observers believe that convictions of former political figures and businessmen since Bouteflika stepped down amount more to internal score settling among the elite than a reflection of meaningful reform.