Jailed Jihad leader Belhadj released in Algeria - lead terror campaign which killed thousands
March 8, 2006
Algeria frees Islamic Front leader'Al Jazeera, 7 March 2006
Algerian authorities have released a leader of the banned Islamic SalvationFront as part of a mass pardon.
This follows Ali Belhadj's arrest last year for praising Iraq's insurgency
despite being barred from making public statements.
Belhadj, the group's former deputy leader, went to visit his mother's grave
at the Kuba cemetery after his release on Monday, his brother Abdelhafid
Belhadj's mother died while he was in the al-Harrach prison in a suburb of
Belhadj was one of 2200 Islamist prisoners being pardoned or having their
sentences reduced as part of the Algerian government's effort to turn the
page on the brutal insurgency that left about 150,000 people dead in the
1990s, his brother said.
Belhadj was barred from political or charitable activity and from making
public statements when he was released in 2003, after serving a 12-year term
for threatening national security.
Belhadj, a charismatic preacher, refused to sign the order condemning
himself and fellow Salvation Front leader Abassi Madani to silence.
Still, it was considered legally binding.
Last July, Belhadj praised the Iraqi anti-government uprising on Aljazeera
television and condoned the kidnapping in Iraq of two Algerian diplomats,
who were later killed.
The Salvation Front rose to power in Algeria's first multiparty national
elections in December 1991.
The army cancelled the second round of the vote, igniting an insurgency that
ravaged the country.
Tens of thousands of civilians were killed.
Government security forces were accused of playing at least a passive role
in some of the bloodshed, which largely ended with a cease-fire in 1997.
As part of national reconciliation efforts approved in a referendum last
year, jails around the country started releasing prisoners this weekend.
The plan foresees pardons for people convicted of crimes that did not
involve massacre, rape or explosions in public places.