ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — An Algerian military court sentenced the brother of the country’s longtime former leader and two ex-intelligence chiefs to 15 years in prison Wednesday for plotting against the state, according to Algerian news reports.
The unprecedented trial and conviction of these men who once wielded immense power is another blow to the regime of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out as president by street protests and the army chief in April. Africa’s largest country is now struggling to find a new political path.
Algerian news site TSA cited Miloud Brahimi, a lawyer for one of the spy bosses, as saying Wednesday that six people were convicted overnight in the closed-door trial in the town of Blida. State radio and state news agency APS also reported the convictions.
Among them were Said Bouteflika, brother and special counsellor of Bouteflika, and former intelligence figures Gen. Athmane Tartag and Gen. Mohamed Mediene. Mediene is known Toufik — a name that once made Algerians tremble.
They were convicted of plotting against the state and undermining the army earlier this year as protests mounted against Bouteflika’s presidency.
The trial was chaotic. Said Bouteflika refused to answer the judge’s questions and walked out, according to one of the lawyers present. Tartag, who worked directly under the president, refused to leave his cell.
The charges centered on March meetings between the three and the leader of the leftist Workers Party, Louisa Hanoune, as pressure mounted on President Bouteflika, who was seeking a fifth mandate despite infirmities following a stroke. Some feared they were plotting to fire powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who sided with the protesters.
All four were sentenced to 15 years in prison, the news reports said. Two others were convicted to 20 years of prison in absentia. They are believed to be in Spain.
The army chief used his claims of a vast conspiracy to press for a new presidential election, scheduled for Dec. 12.
FILE – This Friday April 10, 2009 file photo shows Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, left, and his brother Said Bouteflika arrives at his campaign headquarters in the Hydra district of Algiers, a day after the Algerian presidential election. A military tribunal has opened the high-profile trial of Said Bouteflika and two ex-intelligence chiefs, one whose name alone once made Algerians tremble. (AP Photo, File)