Algerian ex-president’s brother, former spy bosses cleared

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — A military appeals court in Algeria on Saturday cleared the brother of the country’s longtime former leader, two ex-intelligence chiefs and the leader of a leftist political party who had all been accused of plotting against the state.

Among the four defendants was Said Bouteflika, the brother and once-powerful special counsellor of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who forced to resign from office in April 2019 amid growing peaceful street protests.

The others were former intelligence figures Gen. Athmane Tartag and Gen. Mohamed Mediene, who was known Toufik — a name that once made Algerians tremble — and the leader of a leftist political party, Louisa Hanoune, for decades a fixture on Algeria’s political scene.

Khaled Berghel, the lawyer for Said Bouteflika, told the official APS news agency that the Blida military appeal court decided to clear the four defendants. Djelloul Djoudi, a former lawmaker of Hanoune’s party, confirmed the acquittal decision to The Associated Press.

Saturday’s ruling comes after the Supreme Court decided in November to quash the previous verdict and retry the case.

All four defendants had been arrested in May 2019 after Bouteflika was forced out amid anger at rampant corruption in the government, unemployment and lack of political freedom.

The same year, a military court had sentenced them to 15 years in prison for allegedly plotting against the state and undermining the army in the early weeks of the protests against Bouteflika.

In December 2019, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected on a promise to bring political and economic changes in the country, though the vote was largely boycotted by the protest movement, the Hirak.