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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Algérie, questions sur un crime

by Hassane Zerrouky

Algeria: Crime Raises Questions

Translated Friday 5 March 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

According to the Algerian press, the slaying of Algeria’s top cop, Ali Tounsi, coming as it does in the context of a struggle against corruption, may herald crimes to come.

Neither the media nor the Algerian man-in-the-street is satisfied with the official version of the death of the head of the Algerian police on the morning of Feb. 25. According to a communiqué from the Algerian ministry of the interior, the killing occurred “during a working meeting, in the course of which a police cadre, apparently the victim of an access of insanity, drew his weapon and mortally wounded Colonel Ali Tounsi.” The murderer, Colonel Chouieb Oultache, Ali Tounsi’s deputy, is said to have emptied his pistol magazine when his boss told him he was fired because of a corruption scandal revealed that very day by the newspaper Ennahar.

This version of events has not convinced public opinion, and still less some commentators. “A simple hypothesis, with no underlying enigma and evidently without any political connotation,” Boubekeur Hamidechi wrote ironically in his column in Soir d’Algérie. “Killing or paid assassination? The question remains unanswered,” El Watan newspaper writes. “Is Ali Tounsi the first casualty in the campaign to fight corruption” asks la Liberté, which warns that “all those who are involved in this struggle [against corruption], investigating officers, magistrates, and the cadres working for monitoring institutions, financial institutions, accounting institutions, inspectors, tax experts, legal experts and journalists will be at risk of acts of reprisal.” In addition, according to El Watan, which quotes a top Algerian police official, “during working meetings, headquarters cadres generally do not wear an arm.”

It remains that the series of serious embezzlement cases, including the Sonatrach affair (the 11th-largest oil company in the world, with a turnover of $80 billion, see the Feb. 3 issue of l’Humanité), which has damaged reputations at the highest levels of government, including members of the president’s inner circle, can but feed suspicion regarding the official hypothesis of an act of madness. Ali Tounsi, a former colonel in the Algerian secret services – a friend of General Mohamed Mediene, the head of the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (the Algerian intelligence service) – was known as die-hard opponent of Islamists, who opposed the wearing of a veil in the Algerian police force – the most feminized police force in the Islamic and Arab world –, had conducted a “clean hands” policy in the police force, and did not have only friends among the Algerian authorities. What is more, the absence of the head of state at his burial and the fact that the Algerian television only devoted two minutes (without images) to the slaying, before going on to other things, has only fed the speculation and rumors of a settling of accounts at the top levels of the Algerian government.

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