Jailed brother of Algeria’s ex-president launches appeal

In this file photo taken on May 19, 2012, Said Bouteflika, brother of Algerian President, attends the funeral of late Algerian singer Warda Al-Jazairia, one of the most famous singers in the Arab world, at the El-Alia cemetery in Algiers. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 09 February 2020

Jailed brother of Algeria’s ex-president launches appeal

BLIDA: An Algerian military court Sunday started hearing an appeal against the 15-year jail term for the brother of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was brought down amid anti-regime protests last year.
Said Bouteflika, 62, had long served as a key presidential aide and was seen as the real power behind the presidency after the head of state suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit office in April last year following weeks of mass protests against his bid for a fifth term running the North African country.
His brother Said was detained in May and sentenced in September, along with several other high-level regime officials, to 15 years in jail for “conspiring” against the state and undermining the authority of the army.
The appeals hearing opened in the mid-morning under tight security and behind closed doors at the Military Court of Appeal in Blida, south of Algiers, according to local media.
Also in court to appeal their jail terms were two former intelligence chiefs and a former political party leader.
One was General Mohamed Lamine Mediene, known as “Toufik,” who had for 25 years headed the powerful Department of Intelligence and Security.
Also there were his former right-hand man, General Athmane “Bachir” Tartag, and Louisa Hanoune, who had served as secretary general of the left-wing Workers’ Party.
All four had allegedly met in March 2019 in a bid to derail plans by the army high command to force the departure of president Bouteflika.
Said Bouteflika allegedly wanted the intelligence bosses to dismiss the army chief of staff at the time, General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
Defense lawyers hope the four will be released after Algeria’s power balance shifted following the December 23 death of Gaid Salah at the age of 79.
“The person who, in our opinion, was at the origin of these proceedings has passed away,” said Mediene’s lawyer Farouk Kessentini.


Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

Updated 18 min 54 sec ago

Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

  • Health personnel in protective gear took the temperature of disembarking passengers
  • Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Sunday started repatriating nationals stranded abroad in its first flight in weeks since it closed its international airport to stem the novel coronavirus.
The first of four planes touched down at the Beirut international airport late Sunday morning bringing in 78 passengers from Riyadh, local television reported.
It showed health personnel in protective gear taking the temperature of disembarking passengers.
The Mediterranean country announced a lockdown and closed its airport on March 18 as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 527 people and killed 18 nationwide.
An AFP photographer saw a dozen buses outside the airport waiting to transport the passengers.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab had arrived earlier amid heavy deployment of the Lebanese army, he said.
Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month.
Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines has said flights would also land in Beirut on Sunday from Abu Dhabi, Lagos and Abidjan.
It has also announced return trips to Paris, Madrid and Kinshasa on Tuesday.
Lebanese returning home must either test negative for the virus no longer than three days before their return, or be tested immediately upon arrival, according to government guidelines.
They must pay for their own ticket and their families are not allowed to meet them at the airport.
The government has said priority will be given to those with critical health conditions such as diabetes or cancer, those aged over 60 and under 18, and families.
But critics have complained of steep ticket fares, while a financial crisis has severely restricted transactions from Lebanese bank accounts.
Coronavirus is the latest crisis to hit Lebanon, which is already reeling under a crumbling economy.
Due to an acute liquidity crisis, banks have since September increasingly been restricting access to dollars and have halted money transfers abroad.
On Monday, however, the banking association agreed to allow dollar transfers to Lebanese students outside the country to help them face the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry said.
Diab on Sunday told reporters the government was studying the possibility of supporting returning Lebanese students with a ticket.
Lebanese expatriates and activists have clamoured online for MEA to lower the price of its tickets and help those who can’t afford it.
The airline on Friday claimed tickets were more expensive — $650 for an economy class seat from Riyadh and $1,800 for a cheaper fare from Abidjan for example — because planes would be empty on the way out to evacuations.