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Algeria: Bouteflika’s brother, 2 ex-spy bosses arrested

The president’s brother was frequently cited in the past as a likely successor as head of state.

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Algeria: Bouteflika's brother, 2 ex-spy bosses arrested
FILE - Said Bouteflika, brother of ousted-Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Said Bouteflika, the powerful brother of deposed Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was arrested Saturday along with two former intelligence chiefs, a security source told AFP.

General Mohamed Mediene, known as Toufik, who headed the secret service for 25 years and former intelligence coordinator Athmane Tartag were the two spy chiefs arrested, the source said, asking not to be named.

The security source did not provide a reason for the arrests.

There was no immediate comment from Algeria’s police or army, despite efforts by reporters to reach them.

Said Bouteflika was seen as the guiding hand behind the rule of his ailing brother Abdelaziz, who resigned on April 2 following pressure from the military in the face of huge street protests.

The president’s brother was frequently cited in the past as a likely successor as head of state.

He had exerted increasing influence behind the scenes, as the former president was rarely seen in public after a stroke in 2013.

Mediene headed the all-powerful DRS intelligence agency, until Bouteflika fired him and then dismantled the institution in 2016.

Algeria’s army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah has in recent weeks accused Mediene of being involved in a plot against Algeria.

In mid-April, he gave what he called “a final warning” to the former DRS chief whom he accused of conspiring to “hinder solutions to ending the crisis” in the protest-hit country.

Salah had helped Abdelaziz Bouteflika to neuter the DRS, which was long considered a “state within a state”.

Tartag -described by Algerian media as close to the former president’s brother -was fired just after Bouteflika’s resignation.

Salah has spoken of a meeting attended by “known individuals, the identity of whom will be revealed at the right time, that sought to lead a virulent media campaign across various media and on social networks against the army.”

According to Algerian media, this meeting was attended by Mediene, Tartag and Said Bouteflika.

Mediene said “I have never met, whether it be a single time, this person from the security forces who was cited as taking part in this pseudo-meeting, since I left my position” heading the DRS.

Algeria’s former defence minister, Khaled Nezzar meanwhile has recently claimed that Said Bouteflika wanted to declare a state of emergency and had considered firing Salah, ahead of the president’s resignation.

Demonstrations are ongoing in the North African country, with people pouring onto the streets for the 11th consecutive week on Friday, to demand the resignation of regime insiders and the establishment of transitional institutions.

North Africa

Turkey’s Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed

“Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene.” -Erdogan

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Turkey's Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Serhat Cagdas / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that Egypt’s former president, Mohammed Morsi, who collapsed in court and later died, did not die of natural causes but that he was killed.

Erdogan, while giving a speech in Istanbul, cited as evidence that the deposed Egyptian president allegedly “flailed” in a Cairo courtroom for 20 minutes on Monday and nobody came to his assistance.

On Wednesday, the Turkish president said: “Unfortunately, Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene. Morsi did not (die) naturally, he was killed.”

Erdogan said his country would do everything in its power to ensure Egypt faces trial in Morsi’s death. He also called on the Islamic Cooperation Organization to “take the necessary action” over the death of Morsi.

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Morsi gains popularity after death, supporters confer martyr status

Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”.

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Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
A portrait of former President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi as people attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Unpopular in power and deposed after huge protests, Egypt’s ex-president Mohamed Morsi could be humanised in the eyes of many Egyptians after his death in court Monday.

“It is sad, from a strictly human point of view”, a trader in central Cairo said of the former head of state, who had been imprisoned since his 2013 fall from power, and was buried on Tuesday.

“He was old and ill. Whatever one thinks of the political situation, his death while the court was in-session shows that those who judged him were not good people”, the trader said, on condition of anonymity.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
People attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 19, 2019. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt and he was appealing a 2015 death sentence, making both the man and his organisation extremely sensitive topics in the country.

While Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”, Egyptian authorities appear keen to avoid a wave of empathy from citizens, who largely favoured the uprising that deposed him.

His rapid burial on Tuesday morning took place extremely discreetly and under heavy surveillance, while the public and the press were forbidden from attending.

‘Death symbolically important’ –

Morsi came to power in 2012 in elections that took place the year after a popular uprising that deposed president Hosni Mubarak, who had headed an authoritarian regime for three decades.

Spurred on by mass demonstrations against Morsi’s own rule, the army ousted him on July 3, 2013 and Egypt declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation”.

Ever since, the government has cracked down heavily on opponents, especially on members of the Islamist organisation.

The official narrative, regularly broadcast by Egyptian TV channels — which are all behind the regime — is that the Brotherhood are “terrorists” who harm the country’s interests.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Since Morsi’s death was announced, some channels have hosted “experts” denouncing the “violence” and “lies” perpetrated by the group.

On Tuesday morning, pro-government newspapers only briefly mentioned Morsi’s death, without referencing his status as a former president.

TV channels devoted most of their airtime to a visit by current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — Morsi’s former defence minister, who ultimately toppled him before being elected head of state in 2014 — to Belarus.

“As a president, Mohamed Morsi was not very popular among Egyptians — in fact he was unpopular, he was seen as uncharismatic, indecisive, very unsteady,” said Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

But “his death in a courtroom will humanise him in the eyes of many Egyptians” who do not support the Brotherhood, Gerges added.

While Morsi was not a great leader for the Brotherhood, “his death will be symbolically important” and could drive radical elements of the group to take up arms against the authorities, Gerges said.

Radicalisation –

Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has faced numerous waves of repression by Egyptian governments, which have been dominated by the military since 1952.

Morsi’s death adds to a long list of what the Brotherhood call martyrs, including the group’s founder Hassan al-Banna, who was assassinated in 1949 by Egypt’s secret police.

Another key figure, Sayyed Qotb — one of the movement’s main ideologues and an inspiration behind its radicalism — was executed in August 1966 by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime, which fiercely repressed the Brotherhood.

But for Zack Gold, an analyst at the CNA research centre in the United States, it is “unlikely Morsi’s death will result in any immediate rise in the security threat to Egypt”.

Jihadist movements — sympathetic or not to the Brotherhood — are already very active in Egypt, particularly the Islamic State group in North Sinai, the Middle East security expert said.

Since 2013, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, police and also civilians have been killed in attacks.

“In the long term, it would be concerning if the government pre-emptively arrested large numbers out of concern for street protests or other outbursts in the wake of Morsi’s death,” Gold said.

Conditions in Egypt’s prisons “have a track record of radicalising individuals”, he noted.

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North Africa

Algeria’s army chief describes military opponents as ‘enemies of Algeria’

According to Gaid Salah, a constitutional void would amount to “the destruction of the foundations of the Algerian national state”.

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Algeria's army chief describes military opponents as 'enemies of Algeria'
Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaid Salah, chief of Staff of the Algerian Armed Forces and Vice-minister of Defence. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

Algeria’s Military chief, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, has regarded those who oppose the military as enemies of the country, as the country’s protest movement persistently demand the removal of the ruling elite that has been in power for years.

“Those who are knowingly trying to circumvent… terms of the constitution, do they realise what it means to suppress all state institutions?” he asked in a speech.

According to Gaid Salah, a constitutional void would amount to “the destruction of the foundations of the Algerian national state”.

Related: Students in Algeria protest against army chief

“It is unthinkable to proceed in the name of the people with the destruction of the achievements of the Algerian people, that is to say… the constitution.’’

Demonstrations similar to the ones that led to the removal of Bouteflika have carried on, with protesters demanding an end to the current regime and the establishment of independent institutions.

An election which was previously planned for July 4 was later postponed by authorities, without a new date being announced.

Related: Presidential elections cannot hold July 4, Algeria’s constitutional council says

On Monday, Algeria’s top businessman Ali Haddad, who was a key supporter of Bouteflika, was jailed for six months for possessing two passports, in the first conviction in a string of corruption probes.

Last week, two former prime ministers were detained by a judge.

Related: Key Bouteflika ally, Ali Haddad jailed for six months in Algeria

The judiciary must “bring to justice all the corrupt regardless of their function or their social rank”, Gaid Salah said.

“The fight against corruption knows no limit and no exception will be made to anyone… it’s time to clean up our country,” he added.

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