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Ex-Bouteflika allies handed heavy jail terms in Algeria…

An Algerian court on Wednesday handed heavy prison sentences to several former allies of ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for corruption, a defence lawyer said.

Prominent tycoon Ali Haddad was handed an 18-year jail term while former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, already behind bars over other graft cases, were sentenced to 12 years each.

Eight other former ministers were handed sentences of between two and 20 years.

Haddad’s brothers — Omar, Meziane, Sofiane and Mohamed — were condemned to four years in prison, while the court ordered the seizure of family assets.

A lawyer for Haddad slammed the verdict as “obviously political” and said the businessman would appeal.

“The defendants were members of the old regime. They are paying the price of the defeated,” Khaled Bourayou said.

Haddad, the founder and CEO of construction firm ETRHB and former head of Algeria’s main employers’ organisation, had been charged with illegally obtaining “privileges, advantages and public contracts” as well as conflicts of interest and squandering public funds.

The accusations focused on some $16 billion-worth of bank loans he had allegedly obtained for projects won through “mutual consent” rather than tenders, according to local media reports.

Seen as one of the main funders of Bouteflika’s recent election campaigns, Haddad had already been sentenced on appeal at the end of March to four years in prison after another corruption trial.

Ailing Bouteflika, who was Algeria’s longest-serving president, was forced to resign in April last year after losing the backing of the army amid enormous street protests against his decision to seek a fifth term.

Following his departure, authorities launched a string of graft investigations which have seen his powerful brother Said and two former intelligence chiefs jailed.

While some have welcomed the trials of figures in his entourage, many fear that they amount to little more than a power struggle between regime “clans”.

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