An Espionage Affair With Worldwide Consequences
algeria-watch, July 1999, Translation from german
Two Agents Before the Court
At the end of October 1997, legal proceedings took place in a matter concerning espionage for the Algerian State before the Swiss Criminal Court (the highest court of appeal). The two defendants were the deputy chief inspector of the Geneva police, Léon Jobé, and his “contactperson,” an Algerian resident in Switzerland, Abdelkader Hébri, who had worked for the Algerian intelligence service under the name “Genesis.” Léon Jobé, who was involved in a special investigations taskforce for combating terrorism and monitoring violent extremism, commissioned A. Hébri in the beginning of 1994 to provide him with information on the Arabic-speaking Islamists in Switzerland. (2)
In May/June of 1994, Jobé handed over to agent Hébri, who was headed to Algeria, an envelope with a preliminary report by the Geneva police from May 20, 1994, and a list of names of FIS activists. Four names of Algerians were listed in the report, who were allegedly involved in the arms business for the Algerian armed conflict. The dubious list of names stemmed from the French intelligence service and was handed over to the Swiss intelligence service by a chauffeur of the Algerian administration at the United Nations. In addition, they received information on an Algerian who allegedly recruited Islamists for Iran.
Abdelkader Hébri passed along these documents – which have been withheld from the defendants and the defense – to the Algerian secret service. The consequences were very painful for everyone, particularly because many learned of the existence of the list much later: some of the individuals had sought political asylum in Switzerland since they had been persecuted in Algeria. Their addresses and telephone numbers were now known in Algiers, and they rightfully feared being persecuted in Switzerland, which indeed happened in some cases. Those people who regularly went to Algeria could no longer do so since their names were now associated with subversive activity. They were also constrained as to their freedom of movement in Europe since as suspects, they were unable to obtain visas for other European countries. Furthermore, some were unable to renew their passports at the Algerian consulate.
In addition, the espionage had other worldwide and fatal consequences. Here we will present some known cases of people who were affected definitively by the transmission of their names to the Algerian secret service.
Consequences of the Collaboration of the Intelligence Services
Jobé and Hébri relayed information to Algiers on the pending deportation of M.B. in June 1994 and the intended trip to Algeria by Y.M. in the summer of 1994, knowing of the danger that they both faced. The deportee, who was personally brought to the airport by Jobé, received the following warnings from him: “I am deporting you to Algeria so that the Algerian authorities can slit your throat.” He had previously conducted a search of M.B.’s home and confiscated documents, including photos, which he later presented to M.B. in custody in order to learn the names of those photographed. These documents were never properly recorded and also not returned to their owner.
When M.B. wsa deported to Algiers, the customs officials intercepted him at the airport and brought him to the police barracks of Bab Ezzouar, where he was tortured for two nights. He was charged with working for Iran. A police commissioner then released him and he went into hiding for 22 months before he was able to flee with false papers to Switzerland where he was granted political asylum. In the meantime, the Algerian police conducted numerous searches of his parents’ house.
Y.M., who wanted to travel to Algeria, was warned against it by his family in Algeria. They had been visited by security forces, who had searched the apartment and questioned them about Y.M.
An additional Algerian man, A.F., whose name was on the list, was tortured barbarically after his arrival in Algeria and incarcerated.
K.G., who was interrogated by Jobé in March 1994, was taken into custody in 1995 in Algeria and is still incarcerated. Y.D., an Algerian man with Swiss citizenship, was arrested in Algeria. M.A.S., who did not know that his name was on the list, traveled to Algeria in August 1994 to visit his family. His passport was seized at the Algiers airport and he was informed that he was being sought. He was arrested, though through the intervention of a policeman with whom he was acquainted and who knew that about the Swiss list, he was released and shortly thereafter secretly returned to Switzerland.
The apartment of F.M.’s family in Algeria was repeatedly searched after the transmission of the list; one of his brothers disappeared in August 15, 1994 and a second brother was extrajudicially killed by security forces at the end of February 1996.
H.R., who has sought asylum in Switzerland since 1993, learned that the Algerian police knew of his location in Switzerland because his sister, who had gone to the police to report a theft, and was told: “You are the sister of H.R., who fled to X, but sooner or later we will get him.” The family in Algeria was harassed, the father was taken into custody for eight days in November 1996 and mistreated.
Abdelkader Hébri contacted the individuals in Switzerland, whose names were on the list, and greatly unsettled them. For example, he called R.O. repeatedly between July and October 1994 in order to meet with him, and when R.O. refused, he admonished him with the following words: “Think about it long and hard or else you will regret it.” R.O. moved to a new apartment and was very alarmed about the list: on September 3, 1994, his cousin, a 50-year-old man and father of seven children, was wrenched from his bed in the middle of the night during the curfew and extrajudicially executed. This was followed by repeated searches of his home. His two brothers were repeatedly harassed. Every time, the police showed them a picture of R.O. and labeled him a “terrorist,” who was living in Switzerland.
The secret service activities of the two men allegedly had consequences that although discussed during the court proceedings, did not play a role in the verdict. The court played down and understated the activities of the two agents and did not account for the fatal consequences of the activities.
Fouad Bouchelaghem, “disappeared” and executed
We already mentioned the case of Fouad Bouchelaghem in connection with the issue of extrajudicial executions in the last Info Folder (Nr. 8, April 1999). The Swiss police learned of his existence as they searched the asylum seeker F.B. (FIS member) and confiscated some documents from him. Hébri passed along Fouad Bouchelagem’s name, a Physics professor at the University of Algiers, to Algerian officials. On June 3, 1994, Bouchelaghem was arrested in his apartment during the curfew and disappeared. The victim’s apartment was taken over by security forces for 10 days. Mrs. Bouchelaghem was not allowed to leave the house and even his father, who did not live there and was just visiting, was arrested.
Fouad Bouchelaghem was seen for the last time on July 20, 1994, as he was brought out of the torture center at Chateauneuf in bad physical shape. The family first recovered a report of his death at the morgue on September 8, 1994: according to the report, his corpse was allegedly brought there on July 21, 1994 and he was buried on August 15, 1994. No information was made public about the circumstances of his death, and his family was not allowed to identify the corpse. Algerian officials made contradictory statements in response to the inquiries by his family and by international human rights organizations. Amnesty International has reported on this matter in detail. (3)
A Disastrous Visit to Algeria: the Case of Ghedab
Another case with dramatic consequences involved Mohamed Ghedab, on whom we have already reported. (4) He had lived in Switzerland since 1989 and his name was on the list. In September 1996, he flew to Algiers. As soon as he arrived in Algiers, he was picked up by four armed men and brought to Chateauneuf. He was tortured there for 15 days (electricity, chiffon-method, beatings,…). On September 30, he confessed to being involved in terrorist activities and on October 1996, he appeared before the state prosecutor. An investigation was initiated on the basis of accusations of being a member of an armed group, of supporting the group, of possessing weapons, etc… There was no evidence against him except for his statements under torture.
At the request of the defense, the judge, Djerbani, arranged for a medical examination that confirmed the torture. He also arranged to hear the testimony of the police officer who had lead the investigation since Ghedab’s file was empty and he considered releasing him. It was not supposed to come to that though: Judge Djerbani was replaced and on the same day, his secretary was arrested before the court along with her sister (the state prosecutor’s secretary). They both have disappeared. Mohamed Ghedab’s family was forced to change attorneys. He was subsequently sentenced to nine years and has remained incarcerated since that time.
The Two Agents Received a Symbolic Punishment and Praise
The court sentenced Léon Jobé and Abdelkader Hébri because of espionage to 18 and 15 months in prison, respectively, with probation. The plaintiffs received damages for moral and material suffering, though the court held that the offense was not sufficiently substantial and did not deserve a higher punishment. The then Algerian President Liamine Zeroual personally praised Hébri for his activities.
For security reasons, the proceedings took place in camera and the attitude towards the plaintiffs was apparently hostile. Some police officers and the Geneva “Minister” of Justice refused to appear as witnesses in the presence of the plaintiffs.
It was particularly significant that the prosecution did not mention the death of Fouad Bouchelaghem as a result of the espionage activities in the indictment. Although his arrest and murder was debated on the second day of the proceedings, insufficient importance was ascribed to the matter. The case of Ghedab and its consequences was also not a topic of the proceeding. The Algerian attorney, Mahmoud Khelili, sought to represent Ghedab as a joint plaintiff before the court and was refused.
The Affair of Jobé-Hébri Is Not an Isolated Case
A few points need to be emphasized in connection with this espionage affair. Although the above involved a Swiss matter, even in Germany, the Algerian opposition – above all the Islamist – is monitored by the German and Algerian intelligence service. Algerian refugees speak of agents of the Algerian Sécurité Militaire watching them and sometimes harassing them. Some refugees who voluntarily returned to Algeria or Algerians who resided in Germany report that they were persecuted after their arrival in Algiers because they were politically active in exile or they lived close to an active refugee group. (5) Algerian refugees moreover report how employees of the German secret service have contacted them in order to obtain information on the Algerian opposition.
In connection with this Swiss espionage affair, we would also like to draw attention to the repeated persecution of relatives. Many of the individuals on the list reported of persecution of their family members. The reasons are manifold: punishment, intimidation, revenge, terror. Many refugees in Germany report of the persecution of their family members even years after their flight. The security forces conduct searches, arrest their brothers or fathers and interrogate them about their relatives that have fled to Germany.
ome of them are taken into custody or tortured, others “disappear.” This persecution of family members is only recognized in rare cases by the German courts. Even when the courts acknowledge persecution of the family members, they often deny its direct connection to the asylum seeker in Germany. The consequences of passing along the list through Algerian agents in Switzerland make clear that even individuals, who do not belong to FIS, solely because of suspicion, have reasons to fear extreme persecution.
1. We reconstruct the history based on the writings of the plaintiffs’ attorneys (June 1997), an account from RA Mahmoud Khelili and the sentence proclamation of the court in Lausanne from November 5, 1997.
2. The recently publicized text, Affaire des Généraux, Mouvement Algérien des Officiers Libres, also mentions this espionage affair. It is claimed that the Algerian foreign intelligence service recruited the Swiss policeman Jobé as an agent and paid him for the transmission of information on the Algerian opposition in Switzerland. See: http://anp.org
3. Amnesty International: Algerien, Angst und Schweigen, 1996.
4. algeria-watch, Infomappe 7, January 1999, File on the disappeared, p. 22.
5. See the testimony of an Algerian refugee, who after his voluntary return was arrested and tortured. In algeria-watch, Infomappe 4, April 1998, p. 26.