The regime concentrates its fire on the Algerian diaspora
MENAS Associates, Jul 10, 2020
The Algerian regime’s new strategy of targeting its overseas opponents took on more substance last week with the attempt to have the most country’s most famous blogger, Amir Boukhors (a.k.a. Amir.dz), silenced in France. It sent seven international arrest warrants against Boukhors to France’s unappreciative Justice Ministry and requested his extradition to Algeria.
Boukhors’ arrest was greeted almost immediately by demonstrations by his huge Algerian support base, shouting anti Franco-Algerian slogans, outside the prison in Paris as well as in London, Brussels, Madrid, Milan, Berlin, Montreal and Chicago.
Unsurprisingly, Boukhors was released on bail 25 hours after his arrest and, to the anger of the Algerian authorities, he has resumed his blogs with gusto. The extradition case, which will be heard on 23 September, is likely to be rejected or, if not, France faces the threat of massive social unrest.
Boukhors’ arrest was in return for Algeria possibly helping France militarily in the Sahel. With Boukhors being released on bail — rather than imprisoned on pre-trial detention, as is the practice in Algeria — the regime is very angry with Paris and may well withdraw its assistance.
Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues and the country’s dilapidated health system is struggling to cope. Confinement measures have been reintroduced in those communes where spikes in the number of cases have been identified. Inter-city traffic between the 29 most affected wilayas has been banned for a week. So far, the Hirak’s response has been to keep a low profile in order that it is not accused of being responsible for spreading the disease.
Last week 12 Hirak detainees were released as part of what some observers see as an appeasement move by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. However, most Hirakists are more cautious, because the president is still distrusted.
As part of the apparent diversion strategy — shifting its focus away from the Hirak and against the Algerian diaspora and former regime — heavy prison sentences have been imposed on many of the business oligarchs and senior ministers attached to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and more are expected. On 1 July, an Algiers court handed down an 18-year prison sentence for Ali Haddad — the former head of the Forum des Chefs d’Entreprises (FCE) employers’ organisation — with former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal receiving 12-year prison sentences, along with the mandatory but largely symbolic fines. Haddad’s brothers — Omar, Meziane, Sofiane and Mohamed Haddad — were each sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and AD8 million (US$62,000) fines plus the seizure of their property.
Eight former ministers were also sentenced on a raft of corruption charges, mostly associated with major public works infrastructure projects:
Amar Ghoul was sentenced to ten years in prison;
Abdelkader Kadi was sentenced to five years;
Boudjemaâ Talai, Amara Benyounès and Abdelghani Zaâlane to three years each;
Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi to two years each; while
Abdeslam Bouchouareb was handed a heavy 20 years sentence in absentia because he is still at large.
With Haddad dealt with, the same court gave itself over this week to the trial of Mahieddine Tahkout. The bus baron started out as a one-shop vegetable seller in the early 1990s until he was set up as Ahmed Ouyahia’s sleeping partner. Along with Ouyahia, who revealed he was now suffering from cancer, many of the same accomplices — Abdelmalek Sellal, Amar Ghoul, Youcef Yousfi and Abdelghani Zaâlane — appeared in the Tahkout case. Although they once again denied everything, they can almost certainly expect a further string of heavy sentences.
The prosecutor has demanded: 10-16 years imprisonment for Tahkout along with seizure of his property; 15 years for Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, 10 years for the former ministers Yousfi, Ghoul and Zaâlane and a further 20 years for the elusive Abdeslam Bouchouareb
Meanwhile: General Saïd Chengriha has been confirmed as Chief of Army Staff; General Hassen Alaïmia has died; and General Hocine Benhadid has been rehabilitated.
This excerpt is taken from Algeria Politics & Security.