Letter: Algerian election is no joke

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Sir: Had my piece in The Oldie been the only article I had written on Algeria then Rob Brown's vicious attack on me (Tabloid, 9 June) might have been justified. But it was not.

Had Mr Brown read The Observer's front page on 25 May 1997 "The blowtorch election that shames Britain" it might not have squared with his impression of me as a "joker". In this article, I wrote about the widespread use of torture, including blowtorches, in Algeria's police stations; the fears that the horrific massacres are being caused not by the Islamic terrorists but the military junta; and a shipment of defence equipment to Algeria by a British company.

Not many jokes there. Had Mr Brown opened The Observer that Sunday he would have read a two-page spread inside, detailing how "the military is torturing and killing its way to victory over Islamists in the June poll." In this article I quoted a spokesman for Amnesty International: "the spokesman added that 58 journalists had been murdered since 1992. Not a single person has been brought to justice for the killings of these journalists. It does raise very serious questions about what is really happening.'

As to Mr Brown's objection to the tone of the Oldie piece, he may have a point. I am afraid I deal with my own terrors through laughter and a sense of the absurd. So does Phil Davison, of The Independent, whom I took to hospital after he had been shot in Dubrovnik. Inside the Serb hospital, on the examination table, he joked about his suppurating leg wound in a way which would, no doubt, have offended Rob Brown.

Had he been there.

JOHN SWEENEY

Reporter

The Observer

London EC1

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