Algerian ex-PM Sellal remanded in custody over graft allegation

Algeria’s supreme court on Thursday remanded former prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over allegations of corruption. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Algerian ex-PM Sellal remanded in custody over graft allegation

  • State TV said police later arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany's Volkswagen AG , at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane over "corruption cases"
  • On Wednesday, the supreme court had ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption

ALGIERS: Algeria’s supreme court on Thursday remanded ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over graft allegations, state TV said, in a continuing crackdown on corruption and cronyism among associates of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Sellal is one of the closest Bouteflika associates to be detained since mass protests broke out in February, demanding the prosecution of people that protesters regarded as corrupt as well as sweeping democratic change.
Sellal, who left office in a May 2017 cabinet reshuffle after serving as premier and Bouteflika's campaign manager several times, is under investigation over "dissipation of public funds", state television said.
His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
State TV said police later arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany's Volkswagen AG , at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane over "corruption cases". It did not elaborate.
Volkswagen declined to comment.
SOVAC and Volkswagen signed a $170 million deal in 2016 to set up a joint venture, with SOVAC holding a majority stake, to assemble vehicles under the Volkswagen, Volkswagen

FASTFACT

The Supreme Court’s decision against the ally of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika comes a day after another former Premier, Ahmed Ouyahia, was also remanded in custody.

Commercial Vehicles, SEAT and Skoda brands.
On Wednesday, the supreme court had ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption, including "awarding illegal privileges and dissipation of public funds".
A judge at the supreme court confiscated the passport of former transport and public works minister Abdelghani Zaalane and ordered him to show up at the court once a month, state TV reported on Thursday, after saying on Wednesday he was detained.
Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 under pressure from the army, which is now the main decision-maker. Its chief of staff, Ahmed Gaed Salah, has urged the courts to speed up prosecution of people suspected of involvement in corruption.
Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”, according to state television.
Several prominent businessmen, some of them close to Bouteflika, have been detained pending trial.
Protesters are now seeking the departure of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, both seen as part of the elite that has ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.
Authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set for the vote.


Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

Updated 50 min 53 sec ago
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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

  • Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday for the army chief of staff slain with four other senior officials in weekend attacks that posed the biggest threat yet to the prime minister's reforms.
Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally in his honour last year, sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief.
Abiy took power 15 months ago and has won widespread international praise for kickstarting political and economic reforms. But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home.
His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in the national capital Addis Ababa underscored the threat of spiralling violence in Africa's second-most populous nation.
In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar.
The attacks were led by Amhara's head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence.
Asamnew, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister's office. He had served nearly a decade in jail for a previous coup plot, but was released as part of an amnesty last year.
RISKS
Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa.
Roads in the capital were blocked for the ceremony and security was tight. Access to the internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia for the third straight day, users reported.
The coffins of army chief of staff Seare Mekonnen and a retired general, both shot dead on Saturday by Seare's bodyguard in the national capital Addis Ababa, were wheeled into the hall, draped in Ethiopian flags.
Photographs of the men in formal military dress were adorned with yellow roses. Seare will be buried in his home region of Tigray on Wednesday.
At the memorial, the army's deputy chief of staff General Birhanu Jula spoke of the chief of staff's bravery in the guerrilla war against the Communist Derg regime that was toppled in 1991, and of his leadership role in Ethiopia's war against neighbouring Eritrea in the late 1990s.
The weekend killings came as Ethiopia prepares to hold parliamentary elections next year, although the electoral board warned this month that they were behind schedule and that instability could delay polling.
SECURITY FORCES
Ethiopia's ruling coalition, itself a grouping of ethnically-based parties, is facing an unprecedented challenge from strident ethno-nationalist parties, global think-tank Crisis Group said in a briefing note on Tuesday.
Asamnew, who allegedly orchestrated the killings, had been appointed by state authorities as regional security chief in an effort to claw back support from Amharas supporting more his more hardline policies, including expansion of Amhara's borders, the group said.
"The 22 June killings confirm the dangers in handing security portfolios to hardliners like Asamnew who are ready to pander to extreme ethno-nationalists, from whichever of Ethiopia’s ethnicities," the note read.
Ethiopia analysts say the prime minister must tread carefully to restore security. Too strong a response risks derailing his reforms and angering a polarised population. But failure to punish those responsible could see violence could spiral out of control.
Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent Ethiopian analyst, said the government should channel public anger through dialogue, but if ethnic rivalries spread to the federal armed forces, that could destroy the state, he said.