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An Algerian court docket on Thursday sentenced to demise a jihadist for the kidnapping and beheading of French mountaineer Herve Gourdel six years in the past after a excessive profile one-day trial.
The 2014 killing in Algeria of Gourdel was claimed by a jihadist faction affiliated to the Islamic State group.
Gourdel, 55, was kidnapped whereas exploring the rugged massif within the North African nation’s Djurdjura Nationwide Park, a draw for hikers, but in addition lengthy a sanctuary for jihadists.
Three days after he disappeared, gunmen from militant group Jund al-Khilafa — Arabic for Troopers of the Caliphate — revealed a grotesque video of his homicide.
The trial opened on Thursday with 14 defendants, eight of whom had been accused of being jihadists and had been charged with Gourdel’s kidnapping and homicide.
Nonetheless, solely one of many eight, Abdelmalek Hamzaoui, is in custody. The opposite seven had been tried and sentenced to demise in absentia.
On Thursday, Hamzaoui was dropped at court docket by ambulance in a wheelchair accompanied by a medical group and watched over by police particular forces.
On the request of defence attorneys, the trial opening had been delayed for 2 weeks attributable to his sick well being.
Questioned by the decide, Hamzaoui had denied having taken half within the abduction and killing of Gourdel, telling the court docket he was accused solely to “shut the case and please the French”.
Hamzaoui was discovered responsible and sentenced to demise, although there was a moratorium on executions in Algeria since 1993.
‘Nonetheless in shock’
Members of Gourdel’s household, together with his companion Francoise Grandclaude, had been within the public gallery.
“I discover it very tough to speak about him (Gourdel), we’re nonetheless in shock,” Grandclaude stated. “However I keep in mind that there are quite a lot of inconsistencies within the phrases of the primary accused.”
Six others additionally on trial, accused of failing to tell authorities promptly of Gourdel’s abduction, had been all acquitted, in line with an AFP journalist on the court docket.
5 had been Gourdel’s climbing companions and spent 14 hours in captivity together with him earlier than being launched.
4 of them formally recognized Hamzaoui in court docket as being one of many kidnappers.
“I bear in mind Herve’s final look as they had been forcibly taking him away,” testified Hamza Boukamoum, one among his climbing guides.
“We tried to cease them, however they pushed us again saying: ‘You do not care, he isn’t a Muslim’.”
Their attorneys stated in addition they had been victims of the kidnapping, whereas a sixth man, whose automotive was stolen to move Gourdel, was additionally cleared of fees.
Gourdel’s homicide sparked outrage in each France and Algeria, the place it triggered recollections of the 1992-2002 civil warfare between Islamists and the military that left some 200,000 useless.
The homicide got here within the wake of the Islamic State group’s dramatic takeover of northern Iraq and Syria in the summertime of 2014.
Journey fanatic Gourdel had travelled to Algeria on the invitation of his climbing companions to check out a brand new climb.
His kidnappers demanded an finish to air strikes in opposition to IS in Iraq and Syria by a US-led coalition that included France.
Paris had rejected their demand.
Gourdel’s physique was not recovered till January the next 12 months after an operation involving some 3,000 Algerian troops.
His stays had been present in a booby-trapped grave.
In February, his companion Grandclaude had welcomed that the trial was “lastly happening”.
Saying it was “very private”, she stated the method may provide “hope for the households and family members of victims affected by terrorism”.