ALGERIA: JIHADIST SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR FRENCH HIKERâS MURDER
February 20, 2021:
An Algerian court on 18 February 2021 sentenced to death a jihadist for the kidnapping and beheading of French mountaineer Herve Gourdel six years ago after a high profile one-day trial. (Source: Afp, 18/02/2021)
The 2014 killing in Algeria of Gourdel was claimed by a jihadist faction affiliated to the Islamic State Group.
Gourdel, 55, was abducted while exploring the rugged massif in the North African nation's Djurdjura National Park, a draw for hikers, but also long a sanctuary for jihadists.
Three days after he disappeared, gunmen from militant group Jund al-Khilafa -- Arabic for Soldiers of the Caliphate -- published a gruesome video of his murder.
The trial opened on 18 February with 14 defendants, eight of whom were accused of being jihadists and were charged with Gourdel's kidnapping and murder.
However, only one of the eight, Abdelmalek Hamzaoui, is in custody. The other seven were tried and sentenced to death in absentia.
On 18 February, Hamzaoui was brought to court by ambulance in a wheelchair accompanied by a medical team and watched over by police special forces.
At the request of defence lawyers, the trial opening had been delayed for two weeks due to his ill health.
Questioned by the judge, Hamzaoui had denied having taken part in the abduction and killing of Gourdel, telling the court he was accused only to "close the case and please the French".
Hamzaoui was found guilty and sentenced to death, though there has been a moratorium on executions in Algeria since 1993.
Six others also on trial, accused of failing to inform authorities promptly of Gourdel's abduction, were all acquitted, according to an AFP journalist at the court.
Five were Gourdel's climbing companions and spent 14 hours in captivity along with him before being released.
Four of them formally identified Hamzaoui in court as being one of the kidnappers.