Algeria’s former counterterrorism chief has been sentenced to five years in prison for destroying documents
and disobeying military orders, his lawyer has said.
Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi, better known as General Hassan, said on Friday through his lawyer Khaled Bourayou that he would appeal against the verdict.
General Hassan was tried behind closed doors in a military court in the city of Oran in the country’s first ever prosecution of a high-ranking secret service officer.
Grounds for the charges were not made public, though the Algerian press has reported accusations of arms possession and creating an armed organisation.
Bourayou described the sentence as “retribution”, saying his client had “not benefited from extenuating circumstances such as his age, his health and his contribution to the anti-terrorist battle”.
General Hassan was forced to retire and placed under surveillance in 2013 after leading a two-decade war against various armed groups. He was arrested in August.
Analysts interpreted his removal as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika consolidating his hold over the intelligence services, which some considered a “parallel state” within Algeria.
In a statement published in Algerian newspapers on Thursday, General Hassan’s lawyers said that he was “a collateral victim of the ferocious clan war being waged at the highest level of politics”.
He was “one of the valiant officers who saved the country from the perils of terrorism,” Bourayou and Ahmed Touphali Tayeb said.
“If he is condemned, what signal will Algeria be sending to all those who – here and worldwide – are waging a relentless battle against internal and transnational terrorism, which has increased in ferocity in recent years?”
In September, the president also replaced General Mohamed Mediene – better known as General Toufik – after 25 years at the head of the powerful DRS intelligence agency.