Court jails ex-presidential candidate

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A court in Algiers has sentenced a former presidential candidate and retired general to four years in prison for undermining army morale.

Ali Ghediri had said he would stand in Algeria’s April 2019 election against longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

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The ailing autocrat’s decision to seek a fifth mandate led to mass protests against his rule and he later stepped down under army pressure.

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Ghediri, detained since June 2019, appeared in court on Thursday accused of “participating during peacetime in undertakings aimed at weakening army morale”, APS said.

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The prosecution had requested a sentence of seven years behind bars.

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Ghediri was a political novice without a strong support structure to back him when he threw his hat into the ring against Bouteflika.

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He had said he wanted to “break the system” and “build a second republic”.

In a late 2018 interview with El Watan newspaper, Ghediri had hit out at speculation that the April election might be postponed and Bouteflika’s mandate extended, suggesting he expected the army to stop any such move.

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The comments earned him a rebuke from the defence ministry, which threatened to go to court if rules on the conduct of former military officers were breached.

Bouteflika delayed the April elections indefinitely after the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement broke out in February that year.

Then interim president Abdelkader Bensalah scheduled a new vote for July but the country’s constitutional council cancelled it, citing a lack of candidates.

An election was eventually held in December 2019, with Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared the winner.

Bouteflika died last week, aged 84, while Bensalah died Wednesday, aged 79.

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