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Bouteflika's jailed brother appeals against 15-year sentence

Said Bouteflika and former spy chief Mohamed Mediene are among four officials in prison for conspiring against the state before the Algerian president's removal
Said Bouteflika, centre, was widely seen as the real power behind the presidency after his brother suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013 (AFP)

The brother of ousted Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Said Bouteflika, began his appeal against his 15-year jail term at a military court on Sunday. 

Bouteflika, 62, had long served as a key presidential aide and was seen as the real power behind the presidency after the head of state suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit office in April last year following weeks of mass protests against his bid for a fifth term running the North African country.

His brother Said was detained in May 2019.

In September 2019, Said, along with several other high-level government officials, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "conspiring" against the state and undermining the authority of the army.

The appeals hearing opened in the mid-morning under tight security and behind closed doors at the Military Court of Appeals in Blida, south of Algiers, according to local media. 

Two former intelligence chiefs - General Mohamed Lamine Mediene, who headed the department for intelligence and security for 25 years, and General Athmane "Bachir" Tartag - also appeared in court on Sunday to appeal against their jail sentences. 

Former party political leader  Louisa Hanoune, who had served as secretary-general of the left-wing Workers' Party, also appealed against her jail term. 

All four had allegedly met in March 2019 in a bid to derail plans by the army high command to force the departure of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Said Bouteflika allegedly wanted the intelligence bosses to dismiss the army chief of staff at the time, General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Defence lawyers hoped the former officials would be released after Algeria's power balance shifted following the death of Gaid Salah on 23 December at the age of 79.

"The person who, in our opinion, was at the origin of these proceedings has passed away," said Mediene's lawyer, Farouk Kessentini.

Since president Bouteflika was forced from office, Algeria went through a controversial vote in December, which saw former prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune elected president.

Algerian demonstrators had boycotted the election in the lowest turnout in the country's history, arguing that the election was a charade to keep the country’s ruling elite in power.