- The four accused are Bouteflika's brother, the head of the intelligence service, his right-hand man, and the leader of the left-wing Workers' Party.
- They are accused of having met in March 2019 in a bid to derail plans by the army high command to force the departure of President Bouteflika.
- The "Sidi Mohamed" court, in the center of Algiers, began in December 2019, with the trial of former prime ministers.
On Monday, the Algerian state prosecutor requested a 20-year prison sentence against Said Bouteflika, the brother of the former Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Former intelligence officials and Louisa Hanoune, head of the left-wing Worker’ Party, were also charged with “violating the authority of the army and the conspiracy against the state’s authority,” according to lawyers.
The trial of the four accused, imprisoned since May, began Sunday after the appeal was accepted in the 15-year prison sentences issued on September 25, 2019. The sentences were handed down in the Military Court in Blida, south of the Algerian capital. The trial started on its second day on Monday morning, in a closed session devoted to the prosecution case, as attorney Farouk Ksentini told the news reporters.
Ksentini is defending the retired Lt. Gen. Mohamed Lamine Mediene, who is also known as “Toufik,” the former head of the DRS, which was the name given to intelligence between 1990 and 2015. Given the great powers he had enjoyed over 25 years of his leadership of the apparatus, some believed that he had turned intelligence into a “state within a state.”
On Monday morning, Louisa Hanoune, the leader of the Workers’ Party, asked for defense, according to one of her nine lawyers, Boujemaa Gachir. Besides General Toufik and Louisa Hanoune, the main suspect, Said Bouteflika (62 years), was a counselor to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 1999. He became a strongman in the presidential palace without constitutional powers, especially after his brother’s health deteriorated.
As for the fourth suspect, he is the retired Major General Athmane “Bachir” Tartag, Toufik’s former right-hand man. Tartag succeeded him to the post after his resignation in 2015. Bashir Tarout became coordinator of security services, after restructuring and appending him to the presidency. He left his post after Bouteflika resigned.
The four defendants were imprisoned in May 2019 in a case related to a meeting attended by Said Bouteflika, Medin, Tarak and Hanoun on March 27, 2019. The purpose of the meeting was a plan to get out of the crisis that started with the protest movement on February 22. Namely, it was to “dismiss the deceased chief of staff,” Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaid Salah, the day after he publicly called for the resignation of the President of the Republic.
According to the indictment chamber, Said Bouteflika asked the two former intelligence chiefs to fire Qaid Saleh from his position, which he had held since 2004, and had remained faithful to Bouteflika for fifteen years. The chief of staff’s reaction was to gather all army chiefs at a meeting broadcast on state television to demand the president’s departure “immediately,” which happened on April 2.
Ouyahia and Sellal’s Trial
The “Sidi Mohamed” court, in the center of Algiers, began in December 2019, with the trial of former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdel-Malik Sallal. The two former prime ministers demanded the application of Article 177 of the Constitution, which requires the establishment of a special court. This was rejected by the prosecutor on the pretext that the rule is procedural and not objective, and therefore they will be tried by the court of jurisdiction, which ended the trial.
The rest of the defendants maintained the right to defense, but the judge decided to continue the trial, to present Ouyahia as an accused to answer the judge’s questions related to charges of granting undue privileges, squandering public funds and money laundering.