Algeria hands death penalty to jihadist in French beheading trial

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
French mountain guide Herve Gourdel, who was kidnapped and beheaded in 2014 by jihadists in Algeria.
French mountain guide Herve Gourdel, who was kidnapped and beheaded in 2014 by jihadists in Algeria.
Jean-Christophe MAGNENET / AFP
  • An Algerian court sentenced to death a jihadist for the kidnapping and beheading of French mountaineer Herve Gourdel six years ago.
  • The 2014 killing in Algeria of Gourdel was claimed by a jihadist faction affiliated to the Islamic State group.
  • The trial opened on Thursday with 14 defendants, eight of whom were accused of being jihadists and were charged with Gourdel's kidnapping and murder.


An Algerian court on Thursday 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.

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 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 Thursday 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 Thursday, 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.

"We are satisfied with the trial," Gourdel's lawyer, Chawki Benarbia said.

'I can grieve' 

Gourdel's partner, Francoise Grandclaude, welcomed the verdict.

"Now I can turn the page, I can grieve," she said in a statement as she left the court.

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.

Adventure enthusiast Gourdel had travelled to Algeria at the invitation of his climbing companions to try out a new climb.

Four of them formally identified Hamzaoui in court as being one of the kidnappers.

"I remember Herve's last look as they were forcibly taking him away," testified Hamza Boukamoum, one of his climbing guides.

"We tried to stop them, but they pushed us back saying: 'You don't care, he's not a Muslim'."

Their lawyers said they also were victims of the kidnapping, while a sixth man, whose car was stolen to transport Gourdel, was also cleared of charges.

Gourdel's murder sparked outrage in both France and Algeria, where it triggered memories of the 1992-2002 civil war between Islamists and the army that left some 200 000 dead.

The murder came in the wake of the Islamic State group's dramatic takeover of northern Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014.

His kidnappers demanded an end to air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria by a US-led coalition that included France.

Paris had rejected their demand.

Gourdel's body was not recovered until January the following year after an operation involving some 3 000 Algerian troops. His remains were found in a booby-trapped grave.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Sign up for one of News24's 33 newsletters to receive the information you want in your inbox. Special newsletters are available to subscribers.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When a Covid-19 vaccine for under 16's becomes available, will you be taking your children to get it?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, immediately!
36% - 2126 votes
I'll wait to see how others respond
27% - 1563 votes
No, I don't think they need it
37% - 2143 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.02
(-3.84)
ZAR/GBP
21.08
(-2.83)
ZAR/EUR
18.30
(-3.75)
ZAR/AUD
11.85
(-2.47)
ZAR/JPY
0.14
(-3.48)
Gold
1773.03
(-1.67)
Silver
27.48
(-1.53)
Platinum
1219.50
(-3.13)
Brent Crude
66.41
(+2.64)
Palladium
2416.50
(-0.98)
All Share
67483.76
(+1.94)
Top 40
62063.35
(+2.17)
Financial 15
12334.48
(-0.17)
Industrial 25
86843.77
(+0.34)
Resource 10
70371.81
(+5.45)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo