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Algerian Former Army Chief’s ‘Confidant’ Appears before Judge

Algerian Former Army Chief’s ‘Confidant’ Appears before Judge

Tuesday, 4 August, 2020 - 06:30
Demonstrators wave Algerian flags during a protest over fears of plot to prolong the Algerian president's rule, on Place de la Republique in Paris, in March 2019. (Getty Images)

A military court in Algiers questioned First Lieutenant Guermit Bounouira, the personal aide of the former army chief of staff, about charges against him after his extradition from Turkey last week.

Sources familiar with the case told Asharq Al-Awsat that the military investigating judge confronted him with incidents classified as crimes related to national defense, including “communicating with people abroad, who are wanted by arrest warrants, and providing them with military information.”

The indictment against Bounouira also includes illegally transferring money abroad with the aim of buying property and real estate, and exploiting his military position for his own profit.

Bounouira is being held him in pretrial detention pending trial. If convicted, heavy sentences await the confidant of former Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who died in late 2019.

Bounouira left the country early this year after reports that the Military Security Service was investigating his property and relations outside the military establishment. However, he was extradited back to the country after high-level talks with the Turkish authorities.

Separately, Algiers’ Misdemeanor Court called a four-year prison sentence against journalist Khaled Drareni, and protest movement, or Hirak, activists Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche, on charges of “inciting unarmed gathering” and undermining the nation's “territorial integrity.”

The public prosecutor also requested that they be deprived of civil rights for a period of four years.

Drareni, who was imprisoned for four months, denied the accusations, and informed the judge during the interrogation done via “Skype” that the authorities imprisoned him because he was covering anti-government protests, adding that he also reported on demonstrations supporting the government.

He stressed that he was doing his job and “exercising his right to inform”, denying accusations that he was spreading hatred or threatening national unity.

The journalist was asked about posts on his Twitter account, in which he expressed his positions against the authority, and said that as a journalist and a citizen, he has the right to express his opinion.

The judge also questioned him about publishing information of the opposition, and he replied that this is journalistic duty.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune accused the journalist, without naming him, of giving information to the French embassy.

Unlike Drareni, Benlarbi and Hamitouche were released on bail in July and were both present in court on Monday. They defended their constitutional right to participate in peaceful demonstrations.

A few months ago, Benlarbi was acquitted of the charge of “weakening army morale” after spending four months in pretrial detention. Hamitouche was also imprisoned for his opposition political activity.

About 38 lawyers and activists filed for the defense of all three detainees, saying the charges against them are political and they are accused of “wanting a better future for Algerians.”

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