Algeria conditionally releases ex-finance chief in graft probe

The previous finance minister is facing investigations with other high ranking Algerian officials. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019

Algeria conditionally releases ex-finance chief in graft probe

  • The previous finance minister has not received charges but is part of a larger anti-corruption investigation
  • Army’s chief of staff asked the judiciary to speed up the prosecutions

ALGIERS: An Algerian investigating magistrate on Sunday conditionally released former Finance Minister Karim Djoudi as part of an ongoing corruption probe, the official APS press agency said.
Karim Djoudi, finance minister between 2007 and 2014, appeared before the Supreme Court’s investigating magistrate in connection with the disappearance of public funds, abuse of office and granting undue privileges, according to APS.
The top court is the only judicial body with jurisdiction over offences committed in public office by government members, local officials and high magistrates.
Former Transport Minister Amar Tou also appeared before the supreme court’s investigating magistrate on Sunday, APS said.
Djoudi and Tou are among 12 former Algerian officials subject to preliminary probes for alleged criminal offences.
Last week, a judge placed in detention two former prime ministers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal.
Both served under president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned on April 2 amid huge protests against his two-decade rule.
Demonstrations have continued since the ailing head of state stepped down, as protesters demand the fall of regime insiders and the establishment of independent institutions.
Former Trade Minister Amara Benyounes has been detained in El-Harrach prison and former Public Works Minister Abdelghani Zaalane has been conditionally released.
Observers fear that the arrests, while seemingly seeking to placate protesters, are the result of jockeying for power among key insider factions.
He has not been charged but joins a series of senior figures associated with former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to face investigations since protests broke out this year demanding the departure of the ruling elite.
Authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set for the vote.

The channel later said Mourad Eulmi, the head of the Algerian family-owned firm SOVAC which runs an assembly plant with Germany’s Volkswagen AG, was questioned in another court in Algiers about corruption accusations.
Eulmi was arrested by police last week. The TV reports did not give any more details about Djoudi and Eulmi’s cases and there was no immediate statement from the men or any lawyer representing them.
The hearings came days after the Supreme Court ordered the detention of ex-prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, as well as former Trade Minister Amara Benyounes for “dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges.”
The army is now the main player in Algerian politics after Bouteflika stepped down two months ago and its chief of staff Ahmed Gaed Salah has urged the judiciary to speed up the prosecution of people suspected of involvement in corruption cases.
The legal moves have not prevented further demonstrations by protesters pushing for radical change and a clean break with an elite who have governed the North African country since independence from France in 1962.
Djoudi served as finance minister under Ouyahia from June 2007 to May 2014 when he resigned on health ground before being named Bouteflika’s adviser for the past two years.
Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 under pressure from the army and protests that erupted on Feb.22.
Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority.”
Several prominent businessmen, some of them close to Bouetflika have been detained at a prison in Algiers over corruption allegations.
Protesters are now seeking the departure of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, both seen as part of the establishment.


Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

Updated 47 min 58 sec ago

Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

  • The Syrian Observatory reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control
  • The Idlib region is one of the last holdouts of opposition forces

DAMASCUS: Thousands have returned to their hometowns in northwest Syria after military advances by government loyalist against militants and allied rebels, state media said Sunday.
“Thousands of citizens return to their villages and towns of the northern Hama countryside and the southern Idlib countryside,” state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control.
Since August 31, a cease-fire announced by regime backer Russia has largely held in northwestern Syria, though the Observatory has reported sporadic bombardment.
SANA said the returns came amid “government efforts to return the displaced to their towns and villages.”
The Idlib region of around three million people, many of them dispaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Moscow announced the cease-fire late last month after four months of deadly violence that displaced 400,000 people, most of whom fled north within the jihadist-run bastion, according to the United Nations.
Regime forces had chipped away at the southern edges of the jihadist-run stronghold throughout August, retaking towns and villages in the north of Hama province and the south of Idlib province.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Assad’s regime now controls more than 60 percent of the country after notching up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists with key Russian backing since 2015.
But a large chunk of Idlib, fully administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate since January, as well as a Kurdish-held swathe of the oil-rich northeast, remain beyond its reach.