French agents accused of blackmailing exiled police
In a cruel and cynical replay of France's treatment of Algerian Muslim harkis - collaborators with the French - during the 1954-1962 war, the French intelligence service DST (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) blackmails Algerian policemen who have fled their homeland, promising them French residence papers if they will become informers against Algerian Islamists in Europe.
The practice was revealed by Liberation newspaper, which interviewed six former Algerian policemen who sought asylum between 1993 and 1997. Confronted with a bombing campaign by Algerian extremists that killed 12 people in France in the mid1990s, the DST was desperate to infiltrate Algerian groups and recruited North Africans from the immigrant suburbs as well as recent arrivals.
Thousands of policemen have been killed in Algeria since 1992. "Ten cops, sometimes 15, were dying every day - more at times," Ahmed, one of the exiled policemen, said. Reda, another refugee, left when his brother was murdered three weeks after his marriage. Their families were later threatened.
Zinedine, Ahmed, Reda, Amine and Fouad have all applied for legal residence at French prefectures. Two men in plain clothes came to Zinedine's home after his application. "You speak Arabic well, nobody knows you're a cop," they told him, according to Liberation. "Hang around with the Islamists, go to the mosques and, in exchange, we'll help you with your papers."
Zinedine stalled for time, but two weeks later, another man asked the Algerian to meet him in a cafe. "Accept and you'll have your papers - if not, it will be very different," the French agent said.
Zinedine's asylum application was rejected, but he does not regret his decision. "Even if I had accepted, I'd never have got my papers," he said.
Ahmed received a more direct threat: "We know a service (of the French government) that wants to expel you, but we're here," his DST callers told him, according to the newspaper. Ahmed also refused.
"An informer must remain an informer - you have to keep a hold on him," he was quoted as saying. "We never would have got our papers."
The experience of Karim, the sixth Algerian policeman interviewed by Liberation, confirms the suspicions of Zinedine and Ahmed. At the request of a cousin who is a French policeman, Karim infiltrated an Islamist group in the Netherlands, where he was living as a refugee.
Karim's discovery of safe houses and arms trafficking led to an important arrest. But when the group suspected him of being an informer and he fled to France, Karim was offered a work permit and housing only if he would assume another mission. He refused, and has since encountered repeated difficulties with French authorities.
About 2,000 judges in Algeria yesterday began a three-day strike in protest against what they called a two-year media campaign aimed at undermining their credibility.
The pro-government National Union of Judges said it had called the strike, affecting some 80 courts and legal councils, across Algeria to protect "the judges' dignity and honour against insults".