Another sign, after the court summons and arrests, that the tension is far from having dropped in Algeria. The first remark we make is that the posts concerned are eminently sensitive. The dismissal on Thursday of two prosecutors of Algiers, city where are centralized several recent investigations targeting personalities related to the regime of ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but also that of the boss of the anti-corruption body can not fail to challenge . In any case, the information was given by the public television, which said that “Abdelkader Bensalah, in charge of the interim after the resignation, on 2 April, of President Bouteflika, puts an end to the functions of Benaïssa Ben Kathir , Attorney General of the Algiers Court of Justice, and replaces him with Zeghmati Belkacem “. In addition, she said that Khaled el Bey, prosecutor at the court of Sidi M’Hamed, in the center of the capital, is also sacked and replaced by Fayçal Bendaas, while Mokhtar Lakhdari takes the lead Central Office for the Suppression of Corruption (OCRC), in charge of corruption investigations, replacing Mokhtar Rahmani, according to this banner.
- No explanation
The reason for these dismissals, which target officials appointed under the chairmanship of Mr. Bouteflika, was not specified. Zeghmati Belkacem had previously held the position of Prosecutor General of the Algiers Court of Appeal (which includes the Court of Appeal, the Indictment Division and the Criminal Court) between 2007 and 2016. He made his name there by issuing 2013 an international arrest warrant for corruption against the very powerful former Minister of Energy for ten years, Chakib Khelil, close to President Bouteflika. Mr. Khelil was then abroad and had returned to Algeria in 2016, after the cancellation for “defective form” of the arrest warrant and the dismissal of Mr. Belkacem.
- Fight against corruption or purge?
The Algerian justice has recently launched several investigations for corruption against personalities linked to President Bouteflika, who remained for twenty years at the head of Algeria. Several wealthy businessmen, most of whom are suspected of having obtained public contracts through their links with Mr Bouteflika’s entourage, have been remanded in custody. Many observers fear that they will have the dual purpose of appeasing protest by offering “heads” symbols of corruption, while serving as a pretext for a purge within the power in the context of clan struggles. An anti-corruption law bill tabled in January provided for the dissolution of the OCRC for the benefit of a financial penal division under the authority of the judiciary. The project could not be adopted because of the unprecedented protest movement unleashed on February 22nd, which forced Mr. Bouteflika to resign.
- Many concerned personalities
Abdelmalek Sellal, Prime Minister between 2014 and 2017, Ahmed Ouyahia, three times head of government under Bouteflika – the last time until March 2019 – and several officials were heard Thursday in the court of Sidi M’Hamed, according to official APS news agency. It was not stated whether they were summoned as witnesses or implicated. According to the national television, they were summoned in the context of investigations against Ali Haddad, former boss of bosses and CEO of the number one private public works in Algeria, incarcerated in early April. Also heard on Thursday were Karim Djoudi, former Finance Minister from 2007 to 2014, Amara Benyounes, former Minister of Industry and Commerce from 2012 to 2015, and former Wali (Prefect) of Algiers Abdelkader Zoukh. Other officials and businessmen were also present in court, according to APS.