ALGERIA (Web Desk) – Two former prime ministers of Algeria were convicted and sentenced to prison on Tuesday for corruption-related charges in a landmark trial, unleashing cheers of joy from pro-democracy activists who want an overhaul of the gas-rich country's political system.
The international media reported that the verdict came amid high political tensions just two days before a controversial presidential election to replace President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, pushed out of office in April after 20 years in power.
Protesters gathered outside and inside the courthouse in Algiers on Tuesday to hear the verdict against Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, some shouting “gang of gangsters” and many waving or wearing Algerian flags. Police surrounded the courthouse.
Ouyahia was sentenced to 15 years in prison and $16,000 in fines. Sellal was sentenced to 12 years in prison and $8,000 in fines. The men, who deny wrongdoing, have 10 days to appeal.
Both served under Bouteflika. Protesters rose up against Bouteflika earlier this year - in part because of anger at corruption.
Four other former government ministers and businessmen were also convicted in the case, which focused on a car manufacturing corruption scandal, allegedly involving huge bribes, inflated invoices and dodgy loans. Bouteflika's former campaign manager was acquitted.
Unusually, the trial was televised, as authorities sought to show the public that they are taking protesters' concerns about corruption, transparency and accountability seriously.
Thursday's presidential election loomed over the trial. Algerian authorities are hoping the trial will help convince the public that they are serious about reforming themselves - and persuade people to go out and vote.
Algeria's peaceful, nine-month-old protest movement dismisses the election as a sham because it's organizsd by the existing power structure. Protesters want a whole new political system instead.
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92 News (also known as 92 News HD Plus (Channel 92) is a conservative Urdu language TV channel based in Lahore, Pakistan.
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The channel's name, 92, is to celebrate the 1992 Cricket World Cup won by Pakistan. The number 92 is also the telephone country calling code of Pakistan, which is another major reason behind the channel's name.
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