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Algeria jails two ex-prime ministers over corruption

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Algerian security forces gather outside the Sidi M’hamed court in the capital, Algiers, on December 10, 2019, during the corruption trial of former political and business figures. (Photo by AFP)

An Algerian court jailed two former prime ministers for corruption on Tuesday, two days before a presidential election that protesters want canceled.

Ahmed Ouyahia, who was prime minister four times, received a 10-year jail sentence, and Abdelmalek Sellal, who was premier twice, was jailed for 12 years.

They denied all charges, including "misappropriation of public funds, abuse of power, and granting undue privileges."

The court in Algiers also handed 10-year prison terms to two former industry ministers, and sentences ranging from three to seven years to five prominent businessmen.

Many former senior officials have been in detention as the army seeks to quell mass protests that began in February demanding the prosecution of people involved in corruption and the removal of the ruling elite.

The Tuesday sentences marked the second verdicts since September, when a military court handed long prison terms to the once untouchable intelligence chief and youngest brother of the former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Bouteflika resigned in April under pressure from the protests, which began in February. Demonstrators say the Thursday election will not be fair because some of Bouteflika's allies are still in power.

The army has said the vote will be fair and an election is the only way to get out of the crisis.

The Tuesday verdicts are linked to corruption in the car assembly business and "hidden financing" of Bouteflika's campaign for a fifth five-year term in an election that was scrapped earlier this year.

Among the businessmen jailed was Ali Haddad, a former chief of Algeria's largest business association, who was imprisoned for seven years. Former transport minister Abdelghani Zaalane was the only defendant acquitted.

All those on trial were allies of Bouteflika and denied the charges. Sellal's son, Fares, a shareholder in a car assembly plant, was handed a three-year jail sentence.

(Source: Reuters)

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