France threatens to deport a key witness in the case of the French monks of Tibhirine

Press Release

Algeria/Monks of Tibhirine

France threatens to deport a key witness in the case of the French monks of Tibhirine

*Paris, 7 May 2007 *– Nearly three months after his arrival in France on February 14 of this year, Abdelkader Tigha, a former officer of the Algerian secret service was arrested on May 2, 2007 when he presented himself for the fourth time to the Paris police prefecture to make a request for asylum in France. Mr. Tigha was immediately detained in the Vincennes holding facility. According to a decision of which he was notified on the 2nd of May, he was to be sent back to the Netherlands. His case was to be examined by the Juge des libertés et de la détention on May 4, 2007.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French League for Human Rights (LDH) consider this procedure, coming as it does at the culmination of the presidential elections, to show the lack of will on the part of the French authorities to hear Abdelkader Tigha in the case of the monks of Tibhirine. The decision, « effective immediately », was made on March 21, 2007, the date on which the Netherlands affirmed its agreement to readmit Mr. Tigha to reexamine his request for asylum, though he was only notified upon being detained by French authorities.

Abdelkader Tigha is said to have information on the kidnapping and assassination of the seven French Trappist monks of Tibhirine in Algeria. According to Tigha—and contrary with to the official line of the Algerian authorities—it was the Algerian military security service that organized the kidnapping of the seven Trappist monks, in March 1996, with the help of Mouloud Azzout, the right-hand man of Djamel Zitouni, then « national emir » of the GIA, who was also « suspected of being a possible double agent, and in the worst case to be a member of the military security service. » Tigha explains that the operation was prepared in the Territorial Research and Investigation Center (CTRI) of Blida, where he was posted.

It is partly on the basis of these revelations that a complaint was lodged in Paris on December 9, 2003 against an unknown person («contre X ») by the members of the family of the one of the assassinated monks, the brother Christophe Lebreton, and by the father Armand Veilleux, to bring this tragedy into view. Following this complaint, a preliminary investigation was finally launched by the public prosecutor in Paris in February 2004, and was entrusted to the anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

Though he had been in France for several weeks and French (and Algerian) intelligence were undoubtedly cognizant of his presence, Abdelkader Tigha received no notification for a hearing. After having contacted the media Mr. Tigha was interrogated by agents of the DST on issues relating to his complex itinerary since his departure from Algeria in 1999 rather than the actual case on which he is said to have information. Compounded to Mr. Tigha’s own unwillingness to discuss matters pertaining to the investigation was what appears to have been a corresponding lack of determination on the part of the agents interrogating him.

The French justice system seems to be less interested in wanting to shed light on the assassination of the French monks in Algeria, thus strengthening the official explanation of the Algerian government to the detriment of the pursuit of truth and justice for the families of the victims. * Press contact : Karine Appy + 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 25 18*

— Karine Appy Attachée de presse Press Officer FIDH +33 1 43 55 14 12 +33 1 43 55 25 18 +33 6 68 42 93 47