Algerian opposition leader accuses general of election ‘coup’

Algerian opposition leader accuses general of election ‘coup’

PARIS, July 4 (AFP)

The leader of Algeria’s oldest opposition party, the Socialist Forces Front, on Thursday accused the country’s ex-defense minister of orchestrating a « coup d’etat » by cancelling general elections in 1992.
« Mr Khaled Nezzar, you carried out a coup d’etat! The way in which all this played out was a true coup d’etat, and it was a catastrophe, » FFS leader Hocine Ait Ahmed told the general, in testimony given in a Paris courtroom.

Ait Ahmed was called as a surprise witness for former Algerian sub-lieutenant Habib Souaidia, who is being sued by Nezzar for defamation.

Nezzar, the main figure behind the cancellation of Algeria’s elections in January 1992, filed suit against Souaidia, who has linked the army to a series of bloody massacres and torture.

In his book « The Dirty War: 1992-2000 », Souaidia made explosive allegations about the army’s attempts to quell Islamic militants, who launched a civil war after the cancellation of the general election a Muslim fundamentalist party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), was set to win.

Nezzar is not directly challenging the book, but comments Souaidia made on France’s channel 5 television.

During the broadcast in question, he repeated his claims that « the generals… killed thousands of people. »

Ait Ahmed’s FFS was the only party aside from the FIS and the formerly all-powerful National Liberation Front to win any seats in a December 1991 general election which was cancelled the following month once it was clear the FIS would sweep the board in the second round.

The FFS leader told the Paris court he had urged Nezzar not to intervene in a meeting before the regime’s decision to call off the polls.

« And you told me ‘We’ll never intervene’, » Ait Ahmed said, calling the move a way for the regime to stay in power.

The defamation trial is set to wrap up on Friday.

Meanwhile, Paris prosecutors said they had dismissed a complaint filed last week by nine Algerians against Nezzar for torture and inhumane treatment for lack of evidence.

Previous similar complaints filed against the general in the French court system have been dropped.