Algerian former spy chiefs cleared of ‘conspiracy’ charges

Gen. Mohamed Mediene is freed but Bachir Tartag as well as Said Bouteflika remain in prison pending trial on corruption charges by a civilian court.
Sunday 03/01/2021
The entrance to the military courthouse in the Algerian capital Algiers. (AFP)
The entrance to the military courthouse in the Algerian capital Algiers. (AFP)

ALGIERS— A military appeals court in Algeria on Saturday cleared the brother of the country’s longtime former leader, two ex-intelligence chiefs and the leader of a leftist political party who had all been accused of plotting against the state.

Among the four defendants was Said Bouteflika, the brother and once-powerful special counsellor of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who forced to resign from office in April 2019 amid growing peaceful street protests.

The others were former intelligence figures Gen. Athmane Tartag and Gen. Mohamed Mediene, who was known as “Toufik” — a name that once made Algerians tremble — and the leader of a leftist political party, Louisa Hanoune, for decades a fixture on Algeria’s political scene.

A file picture of Said Bouteflika, former president’s brother. (AFP)
A file picture of Said Bouteflika, former president’s brother. (AFP)

Bachir Tartag as well as Said Bouteflika remain in prison pending corruption charges in a civilian court, the sources said.

Dozens of other figures close to Bouteflika, including prominent business leaders and less powerful officials, remain in prison.

Khaled Berghel, the lawyer for Said Bouteflika, told the official APS news agency that the Blida military appeal court decided to clear the four defendants. Djelloul Djoudi, a former lawmaker of Hanoune’s party, confirmed the acquittal decision.

Saturday’s ruling comes after the Supreme Court decided in November to quash the previous verdict and retry the case.

All four defendants had been arrested in May 2019 after Bouteflika was forced out amid anger at rampant corruption in the government, unemployment and lack of political freedom.

A 2018 file picture shows Algerian intelligence services chief Athmane Tartag. (AFP)
A 2018 file picture shows Algerian intelligence services chief Athmane Tartag. (AFP)

The same year, a military court had sentenced them to 15 years in prison for allegedly plotting against the state and undermining the army in the early weeks of the protests against Bouteflika.

In December 2019, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected on a promise to bring political and economic changes in the country, though the vote was largely boycotted by the protest movement, the Hirak.