Algeria‘s former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has been placed in custody by the country’s supreme court as part of an anti-corruption investigation, according to state media.
He is the most senior politician to be detained on corruption allegations since mass protests erupted more than three months ago demanding the departure of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people the demonstrators see as corrupt.
Ouyahia, who left the government in March as part of a cabinet reshuffle, is under investigation over cases including “awarding illegal privileges”, state television said on Wednesday, without giving details.
He is the leader of Algeria’s second largest party, the Democratic National Rally (RND).
The country’s former transport and public works minister Abdelghani Zaalane was also placed in custody by the court, state television reported.
A number of corruption investigations have been opened in the weeks since President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down on April 2, under pressure from the military and protesters.
The army is now the most powerful institution in the country and its chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has urged the judiciary to investigate all people suspected of involvement in corruption.
Several senior figures including another former prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, and eight former ministers appeared last month in a court in Algiers on suspicion of corruption.
Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.
Several prominent politicians and businessmen linked to Bouteflika have been detained or questioned in connection with corruption since the president was forced to step down after two decades in power.
On Tuesday, the Algiers prosecutor said 45 people including senior officials linked to car tycoon Mahieddine Tahkout were under investigation for corruption and money laundering.
A lawyer for Tahkout told AFP news agency on Monday that the tycoon had been placed in provisional detention on corruption allegations.
Tahkout is a close associate of Bouteflika.
Demonstrations have continued since the ailing president resigned, as protesters demand that his close associates also exit as a precursor to independent institutions being set up.
Thousands of students and teachers took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday, rejecting dialogue with interim President Abdelkader Bensalah.
Demonstrators in the North African country want a new generation of leaders to replace a ruling elite seen by many ordinary Algerians as out of touch and unable to jump-start a faltering economy hampered by cronyism.
Is Bouteflika’s resignation enough for Algerians?