ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) – A military court in Algeria on Wednesday sentenced the brother of the country’s longtime former leader and two ex-intelligence chiefs to 15 years in prison for plotting against the state.
The overnight ruling against men who once wielded immense power in Africa’s largest country represents another blow to the legacy of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out as president by street protests and the army chief in April.
The oil- and gas-rich country is now struggling to find a new political path, and protesters have maintained street demonstrations because much of the state apparatus under Bouteflika remains.
In a statement from the town of Blida, the court said seven people were convicted in the closed-door trial in the town of Blida. One of the defense lawyers, Mokrane Ait Larbi, told The Associated Press that he would seek an appeal.
Among them were Said Bouteflika, brother and special counsellor of Bouteflika, and former intelligence figures Gen. Athmane Tartag and Gen. Mohamed Mediene, who was known Toufik – a name that once made Algerians tremble.
They were convicted of plotting against the state and undermining the army in the early weeks of the protests against Bouteflika, who was seeking a fifth mandate despite infirmities following a stroke.
The charges centered on March meetings between the three men and the leader of the left-wing Workers Party, Louisa Hanoune. Some feared they were plotting to fire powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who was siding with the protesters.
The four were arrested in May, after Bouteflika was forced out amid anger at rampant corruption, unemployment and lack of political freedom. The pro-democracy demonstrations have continued ever since.
The trial was chaotic. Said Bouteflika refused to answer the judge’s questions and walked out, according to one of the lawyers present. Tartag, who worked directly under the president, refused to leave his cell. Neither was present for the verdict.
Lawyer Ait Larbi, who represents Hanoune, called it a “politically driven trial.”
All four were sentenced to 15 years in prison, the news reports said. Three others who are believed to have fled abroad were convicted in absentia to 20 years of prison.
The army chief used his claims of a vast conspiracy to press for a new presidential election, which is now scheduled for Dec. 12.