In a setback to the popular Hirak resistance movement in Algeria, a court acquitted three officials of the erstwhile regime of ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, including his brother Said Bouteflika, multiple news outlets reported on January 2, Saturday. Bouteflika’s regime was toppled by a popular revolution in 2019. Apart from the ex-president’s brother, two powerful former spy chiefs, Mohamed Mediene and Bachir Tartag, were acquitted by the military appeals court on Saturday after a retrial cleared them of conspiracy charges.
The three had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in September 2019 after being convicted of the charge of conspiracy against the state. They were arrested in the aftermath of the popular anti-government Hirak protests that swept the country and resulted in the overthrow of the Bouteflika regime.
Their arrest and subsequent conviction was hailed as a major victory for the Hirak movement. One of the movement’s main goals was the expulsion of all officials and individuals with ties to the previous regime and justice for the crimes committed by them against ordinary Algerians while in power. The three, along with co-defendant Louisa Hanoune, the former secretary general of the Workers’ Party, were accused of participating in a meeting with the intention to sabotage plans by the Algerian military leadership to force the then president to step down. Said Bouteflika reportedly also wanted the intelligence chiefs to dismiss the then army chief of staff, General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
According to news reports, Said Bouteflika and Bachir Tartag continue to remain in detention for corruption charges they face in a civilian court. Meanwhile, Mediene, the former head of the DRS intelligence agency, was released from detention on Saturday.
Their acquittal by the court is being seen as a major blow to the Hirak movement which continues to exert pressure on the current government of recently elected president Abdelmadjid Tebboune for the removal of all elite and corrupt politicians, businessmen and other officials from the Bouteflika-era who continue to hold power. Another major demand of the movement is an end to interference by the Algerian army in the country’s civilian and political affairs.