According to Saïd Arif, Damas made « the dirty job » for Paris

The trial of the Chechen networks

According to Saïd Arif, Damas made « the dirty job » for Paris
the defendant says to have been tortured in Syria and rejects his « alleged confession ».

By Patricia Tourancheau, Libération, April 22, 2006

Former lieutenant deserter of the Algerian army reconverted into Jihad, Saïd Arif, 40 years old, is out of place compared to the twenty-five other Islamists of the networks known as « Chechen » tried in Paris for « terrorist criminal conspiracy ». Aquiline nose and haughty bearing with his white trousers and his blue shirt, emaciated and hairless face, this particular defendant stands a head taller than his bearded and stocky neighbours in the box. Not need for interpreter, the Algerian expresses himself in perfect French (as in English, and correct in German), but is sparing in his words to the court: « In the name of what do you judge me, as colonial country? » He doesn’t answer the questions of the president Jacqueline Rebeyrotte like to those of judge Jean-Louis Bruguière at the time of his twelve interrogations. In the absence of consents, the president drones out during three hours on Thursday the notes of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) and the policeman’s reports of accusing associates, who depict Saïd Arif as an itinerant Al-Qaeda manager. He spent twelve years to cross the world under « ten different alias ».

Market of Christmas. Born in Oran in 1965, of parents farmers, Saïd Arif would have made secondary studies, the military academy for engineers of Béjaïa, would have served the army in Ouargla, then deserted at the end of 1989. He leaves Algeria in 1991, settles in Germany until 1995. His religious engagement would date from this year. He would have joined Great Britain with his third brother Omar (killed since in Iraq at the time of engagements against the American forces), attended the integrist mosque of Baker Street in London, then integrated the network of the ultrafondamentalist « Abou Doha ». He leaves thus to Afghanistan on summer 1996 and makes « paramilitary training courses » until 1997. He lives in Berlin, in 1999 and 2000, in an apartment sometimes occupied by Islamists of the « group of Frankfurt », who concocted to make blow up the market of Christmas in Strasbourg: « There are nitro-glycerine traces and weapons in this apartment, Sir, do you have observations? » asks the president. The snag is that the same magistrate wrote in the judgement of the network of Frankfurt harsh words on Arif, who rebuffs her: « You already judged me, I was a « big name », you said. » He escaped the arrests across the Rhine. According to the prosecutor, « he manages to leave Germany, where he knows to be wanted, for Georgia », and practises Jihad in the valley of Pankissi, before trying to go to Chechnya.
Back in Europe, Saïd Arif was checked in the airport of Barcelona, on March 22, 2002, with Nourredine Merabet and Merouane Benhamed, two other supposed pivots of the network which would then foment in Spain projects of attacks: « You are taken in for questioning with people who are not anybody, do you know them? », insists the president. Saïd Arif eludes: « On which bases do you ask me this question? » He says not to understand for what « he is blamed in France ». His lawyer, Sébastien Bono, indeed disputed the competence of the court referred for « facts which occur in nine foreign countries, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, Afghanistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Syria », but « not in France ».

« Not the same language ». Annoyed by the legal recriminations of Saïd Arif and Me Bono, the president loses her temper: « We don’t speak the same language, I am referred for an international network which starts in France. » He was arrested in Syria on July 12, 2003, then extradited to France on June 17, 2004. His lawyer asked the president to set aside from the debates his « alleged confession » in Damas, because « these exhibits established in Syria were obtained by torture » (Libération of March 20).*

Then, Saïd Arif gets up and speaks to the court: « I was tortured. I had to endorse the documents which were presented to me. I was held in the Palestine center, in Syria. There were screams. They put me seated in a tire and beat my soles with a cable of television. That hurts very hardly and that doesn’t leave any trace. I was put in a cellar where one catches scabies, on the ground with rats and cockroaches. I was questioned during one year, always in the same way, in a tire. All that to tell you that this file is completely unknown to me. » He continued on Friday to accuse the French justice of collusion with the Syrian soldiers who, he said, « made the dirty job for France, which delocalised the interrogation in Syria. When they finished, they gave the green light to the French » to hand him over to Paris.