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Legal Obstacles Impede Trial of Ex-Algerian PM Ouyahia

Legal Obstacles Impede Trial of Ex-Algerian PM Ouyahia

Monday, 22 April, 2019 - 05:30
Algerian former PM Ahmed Ouyahia. (AFP)
Algiers - Boualem Goumrassa
Charging Algerian former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia with corruption is likely to face a major obstacle, said legal experts.

They explained that the constitution demands that such charges be brought before the higher court of state, which was first proposed in a 1996 constitutional amendment.

The court has never been established.

Its absence, however, will not prevent judicial authorities from interrogating and possibly charging Ouyahia.

Current Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal, who was also summoned for corruption, can be tried as a regular civilian.

An Algerian court had summoned the two close associates of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a probe into the wasting of public money, state TV said on Saturday.

They are being investigated over “dissipation of public money” and “illegal privilege,” state TV said.

A judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that they were summoned over suspicions of meddling in the operations of government banks to obtain loans for influential businessmen.

At least 20 businessmen were named in the probe.

The move comes after army chief, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, said earlier this month that he expected members of the ruling elite in the major oil and natural gas-producing country to be prosecuted for corruption.

Bouteflika stepped down three weeks ago after 20 years in power, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations mainly by young people seeking change in the country.

Ouyahia served several times as prime minister under Bouteflika and also heads the RND party, the coalition partner of Bouteflika’s ruling FLN party.

Loukal was central bank governor under the former president.

Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election on July 4.

Hundreds of thousands protested on Friday to demand the resignation of Bensalah and other top officials.

Bensalah appointed Ammar Haiwani as acting central bank governor, state TV earlier said. The position had been vacant since Loukal was made finance minister by Bouteflika before he had resigned.

The protests, which began on February 22 and have been largely peaceful, have continued as many want the removal of an elite that has governed Algeria since independence from France in 1962 and the prosecution of people they see as corrupt.

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