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Algeria court sentences Bouteflika brother to 15 years

An Algerian military court has sentenced the brother of deposed president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and three co-defendants to 15 years in prison in a swift verdict delivered out of sight of the media.

Said Bouteflika, widely seen as the real power behind the presidency after his brother suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013, went on trial on Monday alongside two former intelligence chiefs and a political party head.

Their convictions are the most high-profile in a string of prosecutions of prominent politicians and businessmen over alleged graft launched since Bouteflika was pushed out in April after two decades in power.

All four defendants were convicted of “undermining the authority of the army” and “conspiring” against the state, in the run-up to the ageing president’s resignation in the face of mass protests earlier this year.

Prosecutors at the military court in Blida, south of Algiers, had asked for the maximum sentence of 20 years against all the defendants, defense lawyer Miloud Ibrahimi said.

Former defense minister Khaled Nezzar has said that as protests mounted against the veteran leader, Said Bouteflika proposed declaring a state of emergency and firing army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Lawyers for Workers’ Party chief Louisa Hanoune have admitted she met the president’s brother and General Mohamed Mediene on March 27, a day after Gaid Salah publicly called for the ailing president to step down.

Hanoune, Mediene — who headed the all-powerful secret service for 25 years — and fellow ex-spy chief General Athmane Tartag were all given 15 years alongside Said Bouteflika, state news agency APS reported.

Defense counsel expressed indignation at the trial’s speed and lack of transparency.

One of Mediene’s lawyers, Farouk Ksentini, said he was “surprised by the severity of the verdict.”