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Algerian ex-prime minister summoned in corruption probe

April 30, 2019
FILE - In this April 12, 2019 file photo, protestors carry a large flag and chant slogans during a demonstration against the country's leadership, in Algiers. Algerian authorities are leading a "clean hands" campaign aimed at rooting out corruption that has caught up top tycoons and former government ministers. Corruption is one of the major complaints of the masses of protesters who helped drive longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office earlier this month. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy, File)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algerian ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia went before a prosecutor Tuesday as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation that has targeted figures in the entourage of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, forced to resign after two decades in office.

Ouyahia was questioned on counts of “dilapidation of public funds” and “granting illegal benefits.” However, he left hours later, a disappointment for demonstrators outside the courthouse who chased his car as it sped away.

Some protesters held up yogurt jars in a mocking reference to a remark by Ouyahia who once said that not everyone needs to eat yogurt, the TSA Algerie online news site reported.

The current finance minister and former Bank of Algeria Governor Mohamed Loukal was questioned on the same counts Monday.

The two were among a raft of personalities on the radar of judicial officials vigorously moving ahead with probes of alleged corruption under Bouteflika. Protesters demonstrate nationwide each Friday to denounce corruption and force all linked to the Bouteflika era to leave office.

Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah pressed prosecutors to step up their corruption campaign in one of several speeches he has made in response to Algeria’s crisis triggered by Bouteflika’s now-thwarted bid to seek a fifth mandate.

Gaid Salah, backing protesters, pressed Bouteflika to step down.

In a new speech Tuesday, the army chief insisted on the need for presidential elections and “as quickly as possible.” Protesters and political parties who mostly want a provisional body while the future is worked out have opposed that option.

The transitional president who talk office after Bouteflika stepped down April 2 has set an election date of July 4, in keeping with the constitution. Protesters want the stand-in president, Abdelkader Bensalah, to step down along with other key officials close to Bouteflika.

For Gaid Salah, the constitutional path cannot be avoided “whatever the conditions and circumstances.”

A quickly elected president will allow Algeria to put its house in order and face down threats triggered by a “constitutional void” that could “lead the country in a spiral of anarchy and destabilization,” he said.

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