After two Algerian ex-prime ministers were found guilty in an unprecedented corruption trial, an appeals court upheld their lengthy prison sentences on Wednesday.
The judges kept in place the 15-year prison term for Ahmed Ouyahia and the 12-year sentence for Abdelmalek Sellal, both of whom served multiple stints as prime minister under the now-ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. They are the first prime ministers to face trial since Algeria won independence from France in 1962.
A lower court found the two guilty on charges including "misappropriation of public funds, abuse of power and granting undue privileges" in December last year. The landmark trial looked into deals involving car assembly plants and murky financing for Bouteflika's ill-fated 2019 election bid.
"The campaign scandal cost the treasury an estimated 110 billion dinars (over $890 million, €820 million)," according to the prosecutor. The auto industry controversy also caused the loss of some $950 million in public funds.
New beginning or power struggle?
While the appeals court confirmed prison terms for Ouyahia and Sellal, it also reduced the prison sentences of two former industry ministers from 10 years down to five. Prominent businessman Ali Haddad, considered a key financier behind Bouteflika's last electoral campaign, saw his seven-year prison sentence reduced to four.
The 83-year-old Bouteflika, who ruled Algeria for 20 years, was forced to step down after his plans to run for a fifth term triggered a wave of protests last year. Many high-profile figures associated with his government have since faced trial. Bouteflika's critics, however, fear that the current changes could be due to a simple power struggle within different cliques within the former regime.
Algeria's current president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, also served as prime minister under Bouteflika.
dj/stb (AFP, Reuters)