Algeria court acquits top officials jailed during 2019 mass protests News
Algeria court acquits top officials jailed during 2019 mass protests

An Algerian military appeals court on Saturday acquitted three top officials who were jailed in 2019 during mass protests.

On trial was Said Bouteflika, brother of the country’s longtime former leader, and two ex-intelligence chiefs, General Mohamed Lamine Mediene and his former right hand General Athmane Tartag. Also on trial was Louisa Hanoune, who had served as secretary-general of the Trotskyist Workers’ Party, a leftist political party. All had been accused of plotting against the state and army. They were arrested in May 2019 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In February, a military court upheld that ruling. However, in November, the Supreme Court granted them their request for a retrial.

The arrests took place in the aftermath of the Hirak protest movement that demanded deep-rooted reforms of the ruling system. The protests had led to the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika who had been Algeria’s longest-serving president and was seeking a fifth term. In December 2019, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected on a promise to bring political and economic changes in the country, though the vote was largely boycotted by the Hirak. Tebboune had also set November 1 as the date for a referendum on changes to the constitution, hoping to use the vote as a way to move on from the political upheaval.

The trials are seen by many as little more than score-settling between rival clans among the ruling elite rather than a genuine reform effort. They take place in a climate of repression that has also seen dozens of pro-democracy activists, journalists and bloggers arrested in recent months. Many other prominent figures close to the former president Bouteflika remain in prison.