Trial of former officials and businessmen on corruption charges begins in Algeria

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The trial of two former heads of government and a number of political and business leaders on corruption charges began Wednesday in Algeria, while lawyers for the defendants decided to boycott the trial as they had announced in the adjourned hearing two days ago, an AFP correspondent reported.

The defendants entered the courtroom of Sidi M’hamed, former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia, Abdelmalek Sellal, former industry ministers Youssef Youssef and Mahjoub Badda, former transport minister Abdelghani Zaalan, and former tourism minister Nouria Yamina Zerhouni, who was not in custody.

It was the first time senior political officials had been tried since the country’s independence in 1962.

Among the businessmen on trial are Iveco truck owner Mohammed Baeri, Higher and Shakman truck manufacturer, Mazen Arbawi, Kia car manufacturer, and Ali Haddad, former business forum chairman.

As soon as the judge declared “the official opening of the hearing,” lawyer Mohamed Majdoub came to speak on behalf of the defense, in front of a hall packed with lawyers, witnesses, journalists and security personnel, and was not allowed to enter.

“At the last session, we noticed that the material conditions are not available, and today we are in the same situation, which hinders the defense of its tasks,” Majdoub said.

“Therefore, I declare that the defense team is boycotting this hearing,” the judge decided to suspend the session until the withdrawal of the boycott lawyers who are not involved in the trial.

The defendants are charged with “wasting public funds, abusing the job, granting undeserved benefits outside the law, bribery, money laundering and false declaration” in the file of installing cars and trucks.

Since the resignation of Bouteflika on April 2, under pressure from the army and an unprecedented popular protest movement, a campaign has been launched to fight corruption against senior officials and businessmen linked to power, especially the Bouteflika family.

The Algerian automotive installation industry was launched in Algeria in 2014 through partnerships between foreign brands and Algerian groups, mostly owned by businessmen close to power.

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