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Algeria: Detained Ex-Ministers Claim They Acted Upon Bouteflika’s Orders

Algeria: Detained Ex-Ministers Claim They Acted Upon Bouteflika’s Orders

Wednesday, 14 October, 2020 - 07:30
Algerian policemen stand guard outside the court in Algiers (File photo: AFP)

Dozens of former Algerian ministers on trial in corruption-related charges claimed they were only acting upon the orders of former President Abdulaziz Bouteflika.

The Former Minister of Public Works, Amar Ghoul, was questioned by the appeals judge in Algiers on projects and deals granted to businessmen, which violated investment laws in the country.

Ghoul denied all the charges that led to his imprisonment a year ago, explaining that all the measures taken to benefit investors during his tenure, between 2002 and 2013, were done upon instructions by the former President or in implementation of the decisions of the government.

He also denied any involvement in the corruption cases, stressing that he did not sign any agreement or investment contract, project, or deal that benefited businessmen.

The main defendant of the case is the wealthy businessman, Ali Haddad, who was sentenced by the court of first instance to 18 years in prison. His four brothers also received heavy sentences.

Haddad’s imprisonment led to the detention of former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, and several other officials in ministries relating to investment, which pumped huge sums of money in oil revenues during the early 2000s.

Ghoul asserted that the state treasury did not lose money during his tenure, but rather gained a lot in “hard currency.”

He pleaded the court to do him justice, asserting that he was dedicated to his work and had the country's best interests at heart.

Sellal made similar statements during his trial saying he was ordered by Bouteflika to grant facilities to a number of businessmen close to the president's brother, Said.

He stated that these projects generated huge sums of money for the investors, most of whom were currently in prison.

Notably, the majority of the ministers claimed they were acting upon “instructions from the president,” or “his brother,” who was the second man in power, to try to evade punishment.

Ouyahia was the only former official who did not mention any of the Bouteflika brothers during his trials.

Observers familiar with the prosecutions noticed that the new authority strongly rejected summoning Bouteflika to court, even as a witness.

When asked about calls to bring the former President to trial, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was a minister and then prime minister during Bouteflika's term, refused to interfere with the judiciary.

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