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Algeria’s former intelligence chief demands justice for jailed General Hassan

In a letter to local newspapers, General Medine denounced the sentencing of former counter-terrorism chief General Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi
General Medine's letter marks the first time he has spoken to the press (AFP)

Algeria's former head of military intelligence (DRS), General Mohamed Mediene has sent an open letter to local newspapers denouncing the sentencing of former counter-terrorism chief General Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi to five years in jail.

In his open letter, Algeria’s ex-spymaster demanded that justice be done for his former aide, better known as General Hassan.

“The most urgent thing today is to put right the injustice done to an officer who served his country with passion and to restore the honour of men like him who were dedicated to the defence of Algeria,” General Mediene wrote in his open letter on Friday.

General Mediene, sent into retirement last September after ruling the country’s military intelligence for 25 years, broke a long-term and well-known silence by sending the letter.

In the first time he has spoken to the press, he expressed his support for General Hassan and intelligence officers who are still on duty.

A military court in Oran sentenced General Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi on Thursday to five years in prison, mainly for “destroying documents and disobeying military orders”, according to his lawyer.

Mediene said that under his authority Hassan had conducted the operation that prompted the accusations in respect of rules.  

“Concerning the operation which prompted the accusation of breach of general orders, I affirm he handled it in full respect of normal procedures and gave updates at the appropriate moments,” Mediene said.

“After the convincing results of the first phase of the operation, I congratulated him and those working with him and encouraged them to exploit all the opportunities offered by their success.”

Mediene concluded: “I hope that media intrusion, even if it constitutes a precedent, doesn’t raise any comments that may distort the letter’s purpose.”

After being sidelined in September, the former head of the DRS, who is also known as General Toufik, fell into total silence. Some opposition parties reacted vehemently to his reappearance in public, denouncing the public open letter.

Among the first to react, the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), an opposition political party, argued that the general’s move came too late.

“General Toufik’s media intrusion is no longer a mystery over the ongoing clan-war currently happening at the top of the State,” the party’s communication head, Atmane Mazouz, said in a statement released to the media.

“The choice of timing for the release of this message is more important to decrypt than the statement’s content,” Mazouz added.

According to Mazouz, the people should condemn the general’s laissez-faire attitude as he allowed events to happen as well as his support for decades of practices of injustice.

Publication of the former spy chief’s open letter on Friday came after Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika travelled to France on Thursday to undergo “routine medical checks”.

The hospitalisation of the 79-year-old president, who has been in power since 1999 and flew home on Saturday after two days of medical tests, renews speculation over his real state of health.

Rumours abound over his ability to fully conduct his duties, with doubts linked to opposition political parties as well as former members of the government.

Bouteflika, who was re-elected to a fourth consecutive term in April 2014, suffers from a number of health issues.

In April 2013, he became wheelchair-bound following a stroke that led to him staying for nearly three months in a Paris hospital.

Last month, as for a result of these ongoing rumours, 19 public figures issued an open letter demanding to meet the president in order to ensure that he is the one who is really ruling the country.

The president did not respond to them.