Brother of Algeria's former President Bouteflika goes on trial

Said Bouteflika was arrested with two former intelligence chiefs as the nation grappled with mass protests.

    Said Bouteflika, (right), is widely reported to have become a political decision-maker after his brother's health deteriorated [AP]
    Said Bouteflika, (right), is widely reported to have become a political decision-maker after his brother's health deteriorated [AP]

    The brother of Algeria's former president went on trial on Monday alongside two ex-intelligence chiefs over charges that included plotting against the state and undermining the military.

    Said Bouteflika and Generals Mohamed Mediene and Bachir Tartag were arrested in May over a meeting in which they allegedly discussed imposing a state of emergency and firing army chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah in a last-ditch effort to preserve the rule of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

    Wheelchair-bound and unable to speak, the 82-year-old Bouteflika's announcement in February that he would seek a fifth term in office triggered nationwide protests demanding his departure. The protesters also sought a complete overhaul of the political system.

    Former Defence Minister Khaled Nezzar alleged that Said Bouteflika considered declaring a national emergency and replacing Gaid Salah with a more loyal general.

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    But Louisa Hanoune, a leftist leader who also took part in the meeting and appeared before the court on Monday, said the gathering was aimed at resolving the political deadlock the North African nation was facing.

    State media reported Mediene's lawyer pleaded for the session to be postponed because of his client's poor health.

    "He's not in a state to explain himself, listen to questions, defend himself or be judged," Miloud Brahimi was quoted as saying by the Soir d'Algerie newspaper.

    Mediene, best known as Toufik, headed the all-powerful DRS intelligence agency from its foundation in 1990 up to his fall from grace in 2015.

    Tartag, his deputy, succeeded Mediene and when the DRS was dismantled in 2016 he served as Algeria's security coordinator under the supervision of the presidency.

    The army chief Gaid Salah has repeatedly referred to a plot in a series of speeches and claimed protesters were being manipulated by networks of "the gang" - his term for Said Bouteflika and his entourage.

    With the then-president rarely seen in public, Said Bouteflika is widely believed to have become a political decision-maker while creating an informal circle of favourites who enriched themselves.

    The army chief used his claims of a vast conspiracy to press for - and get - a date set for presidential elections. The administration and parliament fell in line and announced elections for December 12. 

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies