By Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed
ALGIERS (Reuters) – An Algerian court has summoned former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and current Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal, two close associates of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a probe into the wasting of public money, state TV said on Saturday.
They are being investigated over “dissipation of public money” and “illegal privilege,” state TV said.
No other details were immediately available.
The move comes after army chief, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, said last week he expected members of the ruling elite in the major oil and natural gas-producing country to be prosecuted for corruption.
Bouteflika stepped down two weeks ago after 20 years in power, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations mainly by young people seeking change in the country.
But the protests, which began on Feb. 22 and have been largely peaceful, have continued as many want the removal of an elite that has governed Algeria since independence from France in 1962 and the prosecution of people they see as corrupt.
Ouyahia served several times as prime minister under Bouteflika and also heads the RND party, the coalition partner of Bouteflika’s ruling FLN party.
Loukal was central bank governor under the former president.
Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election on July 4.
Hundreds of thousands protested on Friday to demand the resignation of Bensalah and other top officials.
Bensalah appointed Ammar Haiwani as acting central bank governor, state TV earlier said. The position had been vacant since Loukal was made finance minister by Bouteflika before he had resigned.
The army has so far patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times have swelled to hundreds of thousands of people. It remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades.
On Tuesday Salah said the military was considering all options to resolve the national political crisis and warned that “time is running out.”
It was a hint that the military was losing patience with the popular upheaval shaking Algeria, a major oil and natural-gas exporter and an important security partner for the West against Islamist militants in north and west Africa.
Salah did not specify measures the army could take but added, “We have no ambition but to protect our nation.”
(Reporting by Hesham Hajali, Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould AhmedWriting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Richard Chang)