Algeria presses corruption case against ex-PM and other senior figures

By Hamid Ould Ahmed
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Algeria presses corruption case against ex-PM and other senior figures

FILE PHOTO: Ahmed Ouyahia, leader of Rally for National Democracy (RND), gives a speech during a parliamentary election campaign in Algiers

By Hamid Ould Ahmed

ALGIERS (Reuters) - A prosecutor has referred Algeria's former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, along with a minister and two ex-ministers, to the Supreme Court over graft accusations in an ongoing crackdown on the former ruling elite, authorities said on Wednesday.

Protesters and the army drove former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign on April 2 after two decades in power, but public pressure has continued for the departure and prosecution of senior figures around him.

In a statement, the Algiers public prosecutor's office said that as well as the former premier, the referral also included Tourism Minister Abdelkader Benmessaoud and former ministers Youcef Yousfi and Abdelghani Zaalane, who were in charge of industry and transport respectively.

None of them have commented on the case in public.

Six provincial governors were also referred to the Supreme Court in the same case, the statement said.

The army is now the main player in Algeria's politics, and Gaed Salah has vowed to bring to justice all those suspected of corruption.

Protesters are now pushing for the departure of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, whom they view as part of the establishment.

Authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates but without setting a new date.

Protests pushing for change have continued - reaching a crescendo after Friday prayers each week.

Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah on Wednesday warned that security forces would be "strict" in preventing any attempt to infiltrate protest marches, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

"It is my responsibility to draw attention to a sensitive issue, namely the attempt to infiltrate the marches and to raise flags, other than our national flag, by a tiny minority," the statement quoted him as saying at a military base in the southwestern province of Bechar.

He did not elaborate but he appeared to be referring to some people raising flags during the protest symbolising the Kabylie region east of Algiers, where most of Algeria's Berber minority are based.

The government is very sensitive to any political demands that the community, with their own language and culture, could raise, regarding it as a threat to national unity.



(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Toby Chopra, Andrew Cawthorne and Alison Williams)

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