Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

In Algeria protesters demanding clean slate despite arrest of former leaders

Former prime ministers Abdelmalek Sellal and Ahmed Ouyahia have been arrested as part of a corruption probe

Algerian protesters gather during an anti-government demonstration in the centre of the capital Algiers, Algeria. AP
Algerian protesters gather during an anti-government demonstration in the centre of the capital Algiers, Algeria. AP

Demonstrators rallied in the Algerian capital on Friday to keep up their demands for the ouster of all officials linked to the former president, unappeased by the detention of two ex-leaders.

The protest came a day after former prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal joined a long list of prominent politicians and businessmen who have been detained as part of investigations into corruption.

"Thieves, you have pillaged the country," the crowds of protesters marching in Algiers chanted.

"They deserve what they got... and they must be held accountable by the people for their actions," said protester Mohammed, who declined to give his surname.

Thursday's Supreme Court decision against Mr Sellal, an ally of ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, came a day after another former leader, Ahmed Ouyahia, was also remanded in custody as part of a graft probe.

"Jailing Ouyahia and Sellal is an excellent thing," said Cherif Tigrin, a 40-year-old carpenter taking part in the massive rally in the centre of Algiers.

"But we must continue" to protest as long as Mr Bouteflika's cronies remain in power, he said.

Algerians have been holding massive protests since February, after an ailing 82 year old Mr Bouteflika announced plans to seek a fifth term in office.

The veteran leader resigned on April 2 as the pressure against him to quit mounted from all sides, only hours after army chief and close ally Lt Gen Ahmed Gaid Salah demanding impeachment proceedings against him.

Lt Gen Gaid Salah has since emerged as a key power broker in the North African country.

Although the army chief has ordered anti-corruption investigations in the country, according to observers, he has not won favour with the demonstrators who are also calling for his departure.

"Gaid Salah to the (rubbish) bin," protesters chanted on Friday, according to footage posted online by local journalists.

They also called on interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and his prime minister, Noureddine Bedoui, to step down.

Several demonstrators also held up signs to mark the 18th anniversary of the "Black Spring" bloody riots of 2001, sparked by the death of a high school student in a police station in the Kabylie region.

The mountainous Kabylie region east of Algiers is home to the largest Berber community in Algeria who have long suffered marginalisation.

"April 2001 and February 2019... the struggle continues," read one of the signs.

Demonstrations also took place on Friday in several other Algerian cities and towns, according to social media reports.

It was not immediately clear, however, how many protesters took to the streets nationwide as official figures were unavailable.

Updated: June 15, 2019 10:30 AM

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