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Algeria prosecutor seeks longer sentences in ex-PMs' graft appeal

By AFP - Mar 05,2020 - Last updated at Mar 05,2020

ALGERIA — An Algerian prosecutor demanded on Thursday an appeal court stiffen sentences against former political leaders, including two ex-prime ministers, who were convicted on corruption charges last year.

The prosecutor urged the court to impose 20-year prison terms on Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, who were respectively sentenced to 15 years and 12 years in December.

The two premiers had served under president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to resign in April last year by enormous street protests against his bid for a fifth term in office.

Scandals within Algeria's auto industry — including its murky funding of Bouteflika's aborted re-election bid — stood at the heart of the case, which also resulted in prison terms for other former ministers and businessmen close to the ex-president's regime.

Two former industry ministers, Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi, were in December handed 10-year terms, but the prosecutor on Thursday demanded those sentences be upped to 15 years each.

The prosecutor also demanded 10-year terms for two owners of vehicle assembly plants, Ahmed Mazouz and Mohamed Bairi, who were originally sentenced to seven years and three years respectively.

Businessman Ali Haddad, founder and CEO of private construction firm ETRHB and former head of Algeria's main employers' organisation, was sentenced to seven years in December, but the prosector likewise wants his sentence upped to 10 years.

It was the first time since Algeria's independence from France in 1962 that former prime ministers have been put on trial.

The appeal opened on Sunday and the prosector is also demanding the confiscation of goods from all the accused.

The principal accused reject the charges against them.

Many observers see the corruption cases against former regime heavyweights as score settling within the ruling elite.

Protests against cronyism have continued in Algeria despite Bouteflika's resignation and the election of a new president in December.

The new head of state, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, himself served briefly as a prime minister under Bouteflika.

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