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Algerian court upholds 15-year sentence for Bouteflika's brother

Said Bouteflika, along with several others, was handed the prison term for 'conspiring' against the state and undermining the authority of the army
Said Bouteflika during a funeral in 2012. Said was widely seen as the real power behind the presidency after his brother suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013 (AFP/File photo)

An Algerian military court on Monday upheld the 15-year prison sentence given to the brother of ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, following an appeals hearing against the jail term the day previously. 

Said Bouteflika, 62, had long served as a key presidential aide and was seen as the real power behind the presidency after the head of state suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013.

Former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit office in April last year following weeks of mass protests against his bid for a fifth term running the North African country.

Bouteflika's jailed brother appeals against 15-year sentence
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His brother Said was detained in May 2019.

In September 2019, Said, along with several other high-level government officials, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "conspiring" against the state and undermining the authority of the army.

"The initial verdict was confirmed," Said's lawyer Boudjemaa Guechir told AFP on Monday, following the judge's ruling in the appeal's case. 

Sunday's appeals hearing opened in mid-morning under tight security and behind closed doors at the Military Court of Appeals in Blida, south of Algiers, according to local media. 

Two former intelligence chiefs - General Mohamed Lamine Mediene, who headed the department for intelligence and security for 25 years, and General Athmane "Bachir" Tartag - also appeared in court on Sunday to appeal against their jail sentences. 

Guechir on Monday confirmed that both of the former intelligence chiefs' sentences had also been upheld. 

Former party political leader Louisa Hanoune, who had served as secretary-general of the left-wing Workers' Party, also appealed against her jail term. 

On Monday, her initial sentence of 15 years was reduced to three years in prison, Guechir said. 

All four of those who made the appeal against their sentencing had allegedly met in March 2019 in a bid to derail plans by the army high command to force the departure of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Said Bouteflika allegedly wanted the intelligence bosses to dismiss the army chief of staff at the time, General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Defence lawyers hoped the former officials would be released after Algeria's power balance shifted following the death of Gaid Salah on 23 December at the age of 79.

"The person who, in our opinion, was at the origin of these proceedings has passed away," said Mediene's lawyer, Farouk Kessentini on Sunday.

Since president Bouteflika was forced from office, Algeria went through a controversial vote in December, which saw former prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune elected president.

Algerian demonstrators had boycotted the election in the lowest turnout in the country's history, arguing that the election was a charade to keep the country’s ruling elite in power.