Khalida Toumi case: new twist for witnesses

The trial of former Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi continued on March 28 before the judge of the Economic and Financial Penal Division of the Court of Sidi M’hamed in Algiers. In pre-trial detention since November 2019 at the Koléa penitentiary, Khalida Toumi is being prosecuted for “abuse of office, squandering of public funds and granting of undue advantages”.

More than forty witnesses were heard by the judge during the trial involving the former Minister of Culture under the late President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Khalida Toumi.

Indeed, the trial of the former Minister lifted the veil on the dubious management of the decentralized structures of the Department of Culture to which significant funds had been granted for the organization of various cultural events between 2006 and 2017, in particular “Algiers, capital of Arab culture (2007-2008)”, “the pan-African festival in 2009” and “Tlemcen, capital of Islamic culture in 2011”.

Two main defendants appeared before the judge with Khalida Toumi, they are the former financial authorizing officer, Abdelhamid Benblidia, currently in detention, and the former director of culture of the wilaya of Tlemcen, Miloud Hakim. All three are being prosecuted for “abuse of office, squandering of public funds and granting undue advantages” during the organization of cultural events.

Many managers of organizations under the Department of Culture testified against the three accused by sending them the responsibility for the non-compliance with the procedures for financing the projects, among which figure director of equipment, member of the executive committee of the event “Algiers, capital of Arab culture (2007-2008)”.

The latter had signed the service orders and the decisions to stop and resume the repair work of the Atlas cinema and the Mama museum in Algiers and did not fail to point the finger at the former financial authorizing officer , first, then the former Minister in a second, who, according to him, had instructed him to sign these documents. “She said to me: you sign, otherwise I sign and you execute”, he revealed to the judge.

The same official affirmed “to have signed the service orders with the contractor at the level of the Atlas room before going, thereafter, to the headquarters of the Ministry”, however, the contractor in question, also a witness during the trial , denied this version, claiming, in turn, “to have signed the documents at the headquarters of the Ministry”.

Successive at the bar, the witnesses sometimes delivered contradictory versions of the facts, but all returned the ball and the responsibility for the non-respect of the procedures to Khalida Toumi, Abdelhamid Benblidia and Miloud Hakim.

It should be noted that in the light of these developments, the investigating judge of the 5th chamber of the Financial Division had instructed the prosecution of no less than 58 people, particularly managers of cultural organizations cited as witnesses in this case, and who have seen their status change from witnesses to that of defendants.

Heavy indictment against Khalida Toumi

The public prosecutor at the Economic and Financial Penal Pole of the Sidi M’hamed Court in Algiers requested a ten (10) year prison sentence accompanied by a fine of one million dinars against of the former Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi.

As for Abdelhamid Benblidia and Miloud Hakim, sentences of respectively eight (8) and five (5) years in prison were required against them, together with a fine of one million dinars.

During the trial, defense lawyers also took the stand to plead for release, explaining that contextualization is necessary to better understand the scope of the organization of such cultural events.

Moreover, the names of Saïd Bouteflika, brother of the former President, and of Tayeb Louh, former Minister of Justice, emerged during this trial, for their involvement in this affair with the former prosecutor of Tlemcen, who is currently in prison.

Justice will deliver its final verdict on April 7. The main defendant, the former Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi expressed a “feeling of injustice and abuse towards her”, for his part, Miloud Hakim affirmed “to have a clear conscience” and is said to be “proud to have carried out important projects with the former Minister”, while Abdelhamid Benblidia insisted on the fact that “he had done nothing”.

Leave a Comment