ALGIERS: Hundreds of Algerian protesters gathered on Friday in the capital despite a spate of arrests ahead of the latest weekly rally since the April 2 resignation of longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, AFP correspondents said.
The demonstrators in central Algiers brandished the Algerian flag that has been a mainstay of the protests but some also carried the Berber colors despite a ban on the minority’s flag imposed this week by army chief Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, Algeria’s strongman since Bouteflika’s ouster.
“No to regionalism, we are all brothers,” the protesters chanted.
Police earlier detained dozens of demonstrators, especially those carrying the Berber colors, from around the capital’s main post office, the epicenter of demonstrations since they first broke out in February.
On previous Fridays since the fall of Bouteflika, those detained have been released at the end of the day.
Although the army chief has ordered a wave of anti-corruption investigations, demonstrators have kept up calls for his departure along with the entire regime that surrounded Bouteflika.
In a related development, Algeria has detained businessman Hassan Larbaoui in an anti-corruption investigation launched after protests ended the rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state radio said on Friday.
Larbaoui is director of a private company called Global Group, which runs a car assembly plant set up in joint venture with South Korea’s Kia Motors.
Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 under pressure from the army after mass protests demanding an end to his 20-year rule and calls for his ruling elite to be held to account for corruption. The army, which now holds sway, has promised to act.
The court of first instance in Algiers ordered Larbaoui to be detained, along with the head of state bank Banque Nationale d’Algerie (BNA) and two industry ministry officials, state radio reported.
Larbaoui’s legal representative was not immediately available for comment. The joint venture company could not be reached for comment. BNA declined to comment.
On Thursday, the same court referred ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and two former industry ministers, Youcef Yousfi and Mahdjoub Bedda, to the public prosecutor to be investigated for alleged corruption related to the same case, state radio said.
Ouyahia and other officials could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could their representatives.
The seven are being investigated on accusations of “dissipation of public funds, illegal privileges and money laundering,” the radio said.
The supreme court also ordered the detention of Ouyahia and another former prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, last week for “dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges” in a separate corruption case.