Algeria: General Claims Judiciary 'Freed From All Pressures'

Following another week of turmoil and mass protests that prompted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's resignation, his influential brother and two generals have been detained.

Legalbrief reports that Saturday's arrests of Said Bouteflika and Mohamed Mediene and Athmane Tartag mark the biggest legal moves against loyalists of the ex-leader since his departure. The tribunal in Blida, south of Algiers, said the prosecutor appointed a judge to investigate the trio who are accused of 'plotting against the authority of the state' and 'attacking the authority of the army'.

The Washington Post reports that the move puts a new dent in the crumbling power structure of the gas-rich North African nation, which is in the midst of a deep political crisis triggered by the popular but peaceful revolt. Bouteflika's bid to seek a fifth presidential term had sent defiant citizens into the streets.

The younger Bouteflika was widely viewed as the man at the centre of a political system that enriched the nation's industrialists while the youth suffered high unemployment. Mediene was for 25 years in charge of military intelligence service DRS and one of Algeria's most powerful men until he was forced to resign in 2015. And Tartag headed the state security service until last month, when he quietly stepped down after Bouteflika resigned. Full report in The Washington Post

The army chief of staff last week said the military would ensure the country did not descend into violence. Bouteflika's exit has not quieted protesters, who are calling for a shift towards a democratic order, and a crackdown on systemic corruption and cronyism.

A report on the Africa News site notes that lieutenant-general Ahmed Gaed Salah said the ongoing marches showed there was consensus on how to get out of the crisis. 'The judiciary has been freed from all pressures,' Salah said in a speech in Constantine. 'The country will be cleansed of corruption and corrupt people.' Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party on Wednesday endorsed Salah's approach and called on protesters and opposition parties to pursue dialogue to end the crisis. Full Africa News report

Meanwhile, the FLN has elected Mohamed Djemai, a 50-year-old businessman, as its new head. Al Jazeera reports that Djemai is a relatively youthful figure atop the FLN, most of whose senior officials are in their 70s and have dominated Algeria's politics since independence from France in 1962. He replaced Moad Bouchareb, who like other associates of the ailing, 82-year-old Bouteflika, stepped down when he did on 2 April.

Until presidential elections on 4 July, Algeria will be run by Bouteflika-loyalist and caretaker President Abdelkader Bensalah , although he has also faced demands to resign.

A number of figures from the ruling political elite, including former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and several oligarchs, have come under investigation in recent weeks. The report notes that Ouyahia last Tuesday appeared before a court to answer questions relating to a corruption probe implicating several Bouteflika associates. Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal was questioned at the same court over the misuse of public funds. Full Al Jazeera report

The Panama Papers connections to Algeria's latest revolution are unpacked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which notes that the authorities arrested some wealthy Algerians named in the Panama Papers. ICIJ member Lyas Hallas said following last month's fall of Bouteflika, there was an immediate debate about assets held by Algerians overseas.

' The reaction shook the leaders of our country who had planned their retirements abroad. The Panama Papers also hit hard the businessmen who consort with politicians and who enjoy tax and banking advantages at home and yet hide their money offshore. The revelations politically weakened Ministers who were at the height of their power and others who were on the cusp of bouncing back,' Hallas said.

He found the owner of an offshore company linked to the entourage of former Energy Minister Chakib Khelil, who is at the heart of the (state-owned oil and gas company) Sonatrach corruption scandal'. 'Italy and Algeria had opened court cases and Italian judges had identified this offshore company as one of 17 used to launder $216.92m in bribes. Yet neither Italy nor Algeria had called on Khelil as a witness,' he added. ICIJ statement

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