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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Former counterterrorism chief goes on trial in Algeria

AFP , Thursday 26 Nov 2015
Bouteflika
File Photo: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks on during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers April 28, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
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Algeria's former counterterrorism chief went on trial behind closed doors in a military court on Thursday in the country's first ever prosecution of a high-ranking secret service officer.

Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi -- better known as General Hassan -- stands accused of "destroying documents and disobeying military instructions," his lawyer Mokrane Ait-Larbi said on Monday.

Journalists were not allowed to attend the hearing in Algeria's second city Oran even before the judges ordered it held behind closed doors.

General Hassan had for two decades embodied the army's fight against Islamist groups.

He was forcibly retired on the orders of a military judge at the end of 2013 and placed under surveillance, then arrested in August.

Analysts interpreted his removal as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika consolidating his hold over intelligence services some considered a "parallel state" within Algeria.

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.

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".

The former general was "one of the valiant officers who saved the country from the peril of terrorism", Khaled 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?"

Before the trial, lawyer Ait-Larbi said the defence team had asked for Mediene, General Hassan's former boss, to appear in court as a witness.

It was not immediately clear whether the 74-year-old -- dubbed the "God of Algeria" because of his longtime influence -- had attended the closed hearing.

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