July 10, 2019 / 3:41 PM / in 10 days

Algeria's ex-industry minister detained over alleged graft - state TV

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria’s supreme court on Wednesday placed former industry minister Youcef Yousfi in custody over alleged corruption, state television reported.

FILE PHOTO: Algeria's Oil Minister Youcef Yousfi arrives at the OPEC headquarters for a Ministerial Monitoring Sub-Committee meeting in Vienna, June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Yousfi became the latest senior official to be detained in anti-graft investigations since protests erupted earlier this year demanding the prosecution of people seen by demonstrators as corrupt, as well as the removal of the long-ruling elite.

Protesters and the military forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign on April 2, ending his 20 years in power. But protests have continued to press demands for the departure of others in the old guard that has dominated the oil- and gas-exporting country since independence from France in 1962.

Yousfi, who served as industry minister from August 2017 to March 2019, is accused of “dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges”, state television reported, without providing details.

His legal representative was not immediately available for comment.

The supreme court last month ordered the detention of other senior officials including former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal for “dissipation of public funds”.

The military is now the main decision-maker, and its chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, has repeatedly pledged to help the judiciary investigate corruption cases.

Protesters are now seeking the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, whom they see as close to Bouteflika.

The government has postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set for the vote.

Bensalah last week called on political parties and national figures to take part in an “inclusive dialogue” to prepare for elections, but some opposition leaders rejected the offer.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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