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Denying Defense to Detained Generals Stirs Controversy in Algeria

Denying Defense to Detained Generals Stirs Controversy in Algeria

Saturday, 3 November, 2018 - 11:30
A guard opens the gates of a prison near Bejaia in 2011 (AFP/Farouk Batiche)
Algiers – Boualem Goumrassa
The families of Algerian senior officers, who have been in prison for the past 20 days, have protested the military court's rejection to appoint lawyers for them.

The military court grants the judge the right to reject any lawyer at the start of a trial. But it doesn’t allow him to ban a defendant from choosing a lawyer.

A judicial official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the families of the five generals detained in connection with a corruption case are dissatisfied with the decision of the judge at Blida Military Court.

According to the official, the judge has claimed that the defendants don’t need lawyers at this stage because the investigation is still at its beginning.

His decision has denied the generals the ability to appeal the military examining magistrate’s ruling on their provisional detention. This means the detainees will remain in prison for a renewable three months.

The families intend to appeal for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s intervention to stop what they consider to be a “violation of the constitutional right" of any civilian or military defendant to be represented by at least one lawyer, according to the source.

The former officers in question are: Former commander of the National Gendarmerie Maj. Gen. Manad Nuba, former commander of the 1st Military Region Major General Habib Shantouf, former commander of the second district Major Saeed Bay, former commander of the Fourth Military Region Major General Abdul Razzaq Sharif, and the Director of Finance of the Ministry of Defense Major, General Bujmaa Budwar.

The officials face charges of “illicit enrichment” and the use of their positions for personal gains.

In September, a travel ban was issued against the officers. But the head of border police at Algiers airport was sacked for not complying with this decision and allowing Abdul Razzaq Sharif to travel to France for a short treatment trip.

A few days later, Interior Minister Noureddine Badawi reassigned the official to his post, in a move that surprised observers.

Asharq Al-Awsat asked lawyers, who had defended military officials in the past, whether they have reviewed the charges against the officers.

The lawyers, Muqrin Ait al-Arabi, Khalid Burayo and Melod Brahimi, denied knowledge of the case.

However, the Francophone newspaper El-Watan reported a few days ago that the prosecution attributed a suspicious relationship to meat importer, Kamel Chikhi, imprisoned since the end of May, along with his brother and a business partner.

Chikhi and his accomplices have been involved in smuggling from Brazil through Spain a shipment of 701 kg of cocaine which was seized at a port in the west of the country. The drugs were hidden inside frozen meat containers on board a ship owned by a Liberian company.

It is remarkable that the army confiscated the meat and drugs, but the operation’s circumstances are not clear.

According to the newspaper, the officers received bribes and illegal commissions from Chikhi to facilitate his work in real estate and public works in particular, and enable him to monopolize meat sales to hundreds of military barracks, accumulating huge wealth.

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