Israel quietly lets in Gaza workers in bid to ease tensions

Israel quietly lets in Gaza workers in bid to ease tensions

ALGIERS: Algeria’s army chief and de facto strongman has dubbed the sentencing of deposed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s brother and several other ex-regime players to 15 years in jail “just punishment.”“The just punishment handed down to certain elements of the gang … (amount to) realizing an urgent and legitimate claim of the people,” Ahmed Gaid Salah said.Said Bouteflika — whose brother resigned in the face of mass protests in early April — was sentenced on Wednesday for “undermining the authority of the army” and “conspiring” against the state.He was convicted alongside three co-defendants, including two former intelligence chiefs, who all received the same terms after a swift verdict at a military court for crimes committed in the run-up to the aging president’s resignation.There has been a wave of arrests targeting Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s inner circle in recent months, often ostensibly on the grounds of corruption.But many fear these moves are little more than a high-level purge and a power struggle between still-powerful regime players, rather than a genuine effort to reform the state.Longtime army chief Gaid Salah himself faces sustained calls to step down from protesters, who continue to mobilize on the streets some six months after the president’s forced departure.Demonstrators demand that all serving figures associated with the Bouteflika era step aside and credible institutions be set up ahead of any elections, but Gaid Salah has repeatedly insisted that a presidential poll must take place before year-end.

BACKGROUND

Said Bouteflika — whose brother resigned as president in the face of mass protests in early April — was sentenced recently for ‘undermining the authority of the army’ and ‘conspiring’ against the state.

Earlier this month, interim President Abdelkader Bensalah set a Dec. 12 date for those elections.On Sunday, Algeria’s main Islamist party, the Movement of Society for Peace, announced it would not compete in that poll.“The MSP has decided not to field a candidate for the presidential election in December 2019,” said the party’s communications chief Bouabdallah Benadjimia.The army has also said it would not back any candidate in the presidential election to choose a successor to Bouteflika.“We affirm that only the people will pick the next president through ballot boxes, and the army will not support anyone,” a Defense Ministry statement quoted the army chief of staff as saying.Gaid Salah said officials from Bouteflika’s era were trying to disrupt the election by “spreading propaganda” that the military would side with one of the politicians running for president.“The gang and its acolytes try to spread the idea that the army will support one of the candidates for the next presidential election,” he said.“This is a propaganda and its purpose is to disrupt the election.”

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