ALGIERS (Reuters) - An Algerian military court has sentenced the country’s former counter-terrorism chief, who played a central role in the 1990s war against Islamist fighters, to five years in prison, a judiciary source told Reuters.
Aldelkader Ait Ouarabi, better known as General Hassen, was the first high-ranking former military general jailed, in a move analysts said was tied to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s campaign to curb the influence of the military.
In a closed-door trial, General Hassen, who retired in 2013, was sentenced on Thursday night on charges of destroying military documents as well as of supplying arms without getting prior approval from his superiors, the judicial source said.
His lawyers have appealed against the military court decision. No further details were available on the charges against him.
During Algeria’s 1990s war with Islamist fighters, the army and military intelligence expanded its influence as the country struggled with violence that killed 200,000 people in bloody massacres, bombings and assasinations.
Analysts say in the North African country’s opaque politics, the military intelligence maintained its influence, often acting as a behind-the-scenes kingmaker in compromises with civilian leaders and elites from the ruling FLN party.
Since 2013, Bouteflika has moved to curb the military intelligence influence over politics, media and other aspects to create a more “civilian state”.
Firing or sidelining generals, Bouteflika has been easing the military and its DRS intelligence wing out of the political sphere in what observers said was preparation for his eventual departure after more than 15 years in power.
In September, the president removed the long-standing head of the DRS military intelligence agency, Mohamed Mediene, effectively sidelining a power figure in past behind-the-scenes power struggles.
Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; editing by Patrick Markey