Two Algerian ex-PMs sentenced to long prison sentences for corruption

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Algeria's former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday, after he was found guilty of graft allegations.

Alongside Ouyahia, fellow former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was also sentenced to prison for 12 years, while his son received a three year sentence.

A series of former ministers and government personnel were also found guilty in a landmark corruption case.

The trial is the first resulting from sweeping investigations into graft allegations launched after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down in April in the face of mass protests which erupted in February against his bid for a fifth term.

In all 19 defendants - the two former prime ministers, other prominent ex-politicians, and automotive industry tycoons – face charges ranging from money laundering to abuse of office and granting undue privileges.

The nascent Algerian automotive sector got its start in 2014, via partnerships between foreign groups and large Algerian corporations, often owned by businessmen linked to Bouteflika's entourage.

One former industry minister, Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is on the run abroad, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years.

Two other former industry ministers, Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi, were handed 10-year terms.

Businessman Ali Haddad, founder and CEO of private construction firm ETRHB and former head of Algeria's main employers' organisation, was sentenced to seven years.

Three businessmen who own vehicle assembly plants - Ahmed Mazouz, Hassen Arbaoui and Mohamed Bairi - were sentenced to seven years, six years and three years respectively.

The verdicts come just two days before Algeria is due to elect a president to replace Bouteflika in a vote bitterly opposed by the country's nine-month-old protest movement, which sees it as a regime ploy to cling to power.

While no opinion polls have been published, observers expect high levels of abstention, in keeping with previous elections in a political system seen by voters as rigid and unaccountable.