French hero didn't 'clear conscience' over torture: Algerian

18th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A former leading Algerian independence fighter criticised French General Marcel Bigeard, who died Friday, for not apologising for France's torture of Algerians during the war of independence.

Bigeard, who was a leading figure in France's defeat in Indochina as well as its failed campaign to hold on to Algeria, has died in France at the age of 94.

"Until the last minute, I thought he was going to acknowledge his actions and present his apologies" to Algerians for his conduct during the 1954-62 war of independence, when Bigeard led a colonial paratroop division, said former liberation fighter Louisette Ighilahriz.

"For us, the name of Marcel Bigeard is synonymous with death and torture. He could have cleared his conscience before dying," said Ighilahriz, who says she witnessed the torture in the Algerian war. "I'm deeply disappointed, sickened."

"Now he is in the hands of God before whom he will have to answer for his actions. I hope he has the punishment he deserves," Ighilahriz said.

"General Bigeard was for the French the incarnation of the heroic figure of the fighter," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a statement issued on a visit to London.

Ighilahriz revived the debate on torture in the former French colony in an article published in the French paper Le Monde in 2001 and then in a book she published in 2001 ("Algerienne").

She described how she had been tortured by soldiers of the 10th Paratroop Division between September 29 and December 20, 1957, under Bigeard's command.

In July 2000, Bigeard said that torture had been a "necessary evil," adding that it was "a mission handed down by political authorities." He denied playing any part in the practice himself.

© 2010 AFP

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