Letter: Algeria's `disappeared'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Robert Fisk's articles (30 October) are typical of a trial by media where only the case for the prosecution is presented.

His report on "the disappeared" has very limited sources of information, on whose allegations doubt is never cast for a single moment. He does not even attempt to back up these allegations by any corroborating evidence or other source of information. Yet it has been established by the Algerian Observatory for Human Rights that "the disappeared" have in fact, in most cases, joined the terrorist gangs, and they had no need of a lawyer's services to witness their intentions before doing so. Others have been murdered, mutilated and thrown into wells by GIA assassins, as in cases recently uncovered by the security forces. Eye witnesses and victims of terrorism have another tale to tell from that reported by your journalist who had, in fact, interviewed some of them (25 October), but they were obviously not worthy of appearing on your front page. Perhaps because none of these witnesses was "an attractive young woman in a red dress with Princess Diana-style hair".

A few accounts are sufficient for him to draw general conclusions as to the behaviour of the police force. You cannot however escape the fact that the same accounts represent the best chance for a political asylum seeker of seeing her request accepted.

Mr Fisk dwells upon the presence of police officers who had escorted him for one of his interviews. All foreign journalists having stayed in Algeria will confirm that they themselves had asked for this protection because they know that they are targeted by the terrorists on two counts; that of being foreign and that of being journalists.

If the situation in Algeria were ever to be described one day as being "the most covered and least reported", as has been said about other situations, no doubt Mr Fisk will be recognised for the part he played in this.

AHMED BENYAMINA

Ambassador

Embassy of Algeria

London W11

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