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Second Algeria former prime minister detained in graft probe

The former PM is among numerous high-profile figures to be drawn into graft probes [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 June, 2019

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The supreme court decision against the ally of ex-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika comes a day after another former premier, Ahmed Ouyahia, was also remanded in custody.
Algeria's former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was remanded in custody Thursday after appearing before a judge as part of an anti-corruption investigation, state media reported.

The supreme court decision against the ally of ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika comes a day after another former premier, Ahmed Ouyahia, was also remanded in custody.

The two politicians are among numerous high-profile figures to be drawn into graft probes since Bouteflika was forced to step down in April following weeks of mass protests.

Sellal served as Bouteflika's campaign manager, overseeing the president's past three successful re-election bids. 

He was sacked in March amid mounting public opposition to an attempt to place Bouteflika on the ballot again despite the veteran president's ailing health.

On Thursday, private channel El Bilad broadcast footage of crowds waiting for Sellal's arrival outside El Harrach prison, in an eastern suburb of the capital Algiers.

Both Sellal and Ouyahia are being held over cases relating to the misappropriation of public funds, abuse of office and granting undue privileges, according to the official APS news agency.

A former public works minister, Abdelghani Zaalane, also appeared before a supreme court judge on Wednesday and was released under judicial supervision, state media reported.

On Monday, Algerian authorities also detained an automobile tycoon linked to ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on charges of corruption, one of his lawyers told the Agence France-Presse news agency. 

Mahieddine Tahkout "was detained along with his son and two of his brothers on charges of corruption and money laundering", lawyer Khaled Bourayou said. 

The decision to detain them came a day after they were questioned by an investigative judge, the official APS news agency said.

Private media said Tahkout, who holds several foreign car dealerships, was accused of "undue privileges" pertaining to the assembly of cars under the rule of Bouteflika, who was forced to step down in April after weeks of protests. 

Tahkout and the family members run the Tahkout Manufacturing Company (TMC) which assembles vehicles in Algeria for South Korean carmaker Hyundai. 

Several prominent politicians and businessmen linked to Bouteflika have been detained or questioned in connection with corruption since the ailing president was forced to step down on 3 April.

The chief of staff of the Algerian army, Ahmed Gaid Saleh, who played a key role in Bouteflika's removal, has previously said that the Algerian justice system "will open up big corruption cases… without restriction or pressure" regarding what he described as Bouteflika's "gang".

Meanwhile, Algeria's interim president Abdelkader Bensalah on Thursday called for "dialogue" after the authorities ruled out holding a planned election on 4 July.

He refused to resign from his position despite calls in this regard from protesters.

Bensalah urged the political class and civil society in the North African country to hold an "inclusive dialogue" aimed at fixing a new date for elections "as soon as possible" in a televised address.

Algeria's constitutional council said on Sunday it was impossible to stage the poll to choose a successor to ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika early next month, after the only two candidates were rejected.

The move comes after weeks of demonstrations intended to pressure political leaders into postponing the vote.

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