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Algeria issues arrest warrant for ex-defence minister

By AFP - Aug 06,2019 - Last updated at Aug 06,2019

ALGIERS  — An Algerian court has issued an arrest warrant against a former defence minister and army chief, along with his son, for alleged “conspiracy”, state television reported on Tuesday.

The warrant against Khaled Nezzar follows a series of legal moves against high-profile figures in the regime of ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The court in Blida, southwest of Algiers, said Nezzar was suspected of “conspiracy and breach of public order”, according to a news ticker on national TV.

The retired general has for weeks been on the run in Spain, where he has been joined by his son, according to Algerian media reports.

Nezzar recently claimed that as protests mounted against Bouteflika in April, the president’s powerful brother had sought his advice on how to crush the protest movement.

The former minister told the Algeria Patriotique news website — run by his son Lotfi Nezzar — that Said Bouteflika had mulled declaring a state of emergency and firing army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah.

He repeated those accusations in May when he appeared as a witness against Said Bouteflika, who was arrested along with two former intelligence chiefs on charges including “conspiring” against the state and “undermining the authority of the army”.

Gaid Salah, a longtime ally of president Bouteflika, has become Algeria’s de facto strongman since the 82-year-old president left office on April 2, following weeks of protests against his bid to seek a fifth term.

Protesters have welcome the arrests of high-profile figures from Bouteflika’s regime.

But many fear they are little more than a high-level purge and a power struggle between regime clans, rather than a genuine effort to reform the state.

Nezzar was at the head of the army in 1992 when it cancelled the electoral process, denying Islamist groups a victory at the polls and pitching the country into a devastating, decade-long civil war. 

A Swiss court in mid-2018 cleared the way for Nezzar to face war crimes charges after he was arrested in Switzerland.

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