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Brother of Algeria's Bouteflika, ex-spy bosses in custody

Arrests are highest-profile legal moves against loyalists of ex-leader since he resigned last month
Said Bouteflika, right, stands with Algeria's then prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia in 2012 (AFP/File pic)

An Algerian military judge on Sunday remanded the powerful brother of deposed president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and two former intelligence chiefs in custody on charges including "conspiring" against the state, prosecutors said.

The arrests of Said Bouteflika, General Mohamed Mediene and Athmane Tartag on Saturday were the highest-profile legal moves against loyalists of the ex-leader since he resigned last month in the face of mass protests and pressure from the army, AFP said.

The judge did not elaborate on the allegations, but the news that the three had been detained may go some way to satisfying protesters in Algeria who have demanded a broad overhaul of the political system since president Bouteflika stepped down, Reuters said.

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Said Bouteflika, 61, was widely seen as the real power behind the presidency after his brother suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013.

Mediene, known as Toufik, headed the all-powerful secret service for 25 years and Tartag served as intelligence coordinator.

The charges for which they are being investigated are punishable by prison terms of between five and 10 years.

Massive protests calling for a radical change to Bouteflika's government pushed the ailing president to resign on 2 April. Demonstrators continue to demand the removal of all those linked to the former administration.

Army chief of staff Ahmed Gaed Salah has promised to rid the country of corrupt politicians, oligarchs and military officials to restore confidence among the people.

Last month he accused Mediene of trying to undermine the transition that is due to end with the presidential election on 4 July.

Several businessmen, including the country's richest man, Issad Rebrab, have been placed in custody pending completion of investigations of corruption allegations.

Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal and former prime minister Ahmed Ouyhia also appeared in an Algiers court last week on charges related to "dissipation of public funds".

Protesters are also seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Nouredine Bedoui and interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, who replaced Bouteflika for 90 days to oversee the election.

Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, is considered by Algerians as part of the ruling elite that has run the country since its independence from France in 1962.

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