Swiss police scandal raises spectre of EU spying for Algiers

Developing Just Leadership

Our Europe Correspondent

Muharram 25, 1418 1998-03-01


by Our Europe Correspondent (World, Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 1, Muharram, 1418)

A Swiss police officer and a police informer have been found guilty by a court in Lausanne of spying for Algiers on Algerians living in Switzerland. The fact that the officer has received a light suspended sentence, on the request of the State prosecutor, and has also resumed his police duties suggests that he was not acting alone and might have even enjoyed official mandate.

The officer, Leon Jobe - with the help of Abdul-Kader Hebri, the police informant - compiled extensive lists of hundreds of names of Algerians living in Switzerland and then passed them on to Algerian officials. He put the lists together in 1994, when he was investigating alleged arms smuggling by Algerian Islamic activists. He even put some of them on a plane to Algeria.

The Algerian authorities arrested, imprisoned and tortured those whose names appeared on the list after their return to Algeria, according to a lawyer for 14 Algerians who sued Jobe. So far as is known, at least one Algerian university professor whose name appeared on the list was killed. This must be the tip of the ice-berg, judging from the Algerian authorities’ brutal treatment of suspected dissidents.

Some of the tortured in Algeria escaped and returned to Switzerland, suing Jobe for putting their name on the list. A court in Lausanne found that one of those unfortunate victims of torture could blame Jobe for his misfortune.

The man spoke anonymously to a reporter of the International Herald Tribune, on February 9, recalling Jobe’s chilling parting shot as he put him on the plane that had whisked him off to Algeria. ‘I’m sending you back so the authorities will cut your throat,’ he recalled Jobe as saying.

Jobe enlisted the help of Hebri, the police informer to compile his infamous lists. They began collecting the names of any Algerians, most of them worshippers at Geneva’s mosque. Such was the random nature of listing names, that even the names of confirmed secularists were included. They managed to collect between 300 and 400 names.

According to the Herald Tribune report, one of the those names belonged to a 39-year-old resident of Switzerland for 11 years, who never sympathized with Islamic activists. He accidentally found his name on Jobe’s list, but, luckily for him, he had not visited Algeria because he could not raise enough money for a ticket.

Jobe’s lawyer, Bernard Ziegler, described his client, not surprisingly, as an ‘idealist’ who wanted to ‘fight against terrorism’, despite the cynical and criminal nature of his activities. The prosecutor - no less a personage than Carla Del Ponte, the country’s chief federal prosecutor - called him a spy and accussed him of harming the State’s inquiry into the activities of ‘Islamic militants’ in Switzerland - officially admitting the existance of police surveillance of Muslims there.

Yet, she requested the court to impose a suspended sentence of only 18 months, and the court duly obliged - two surprising moves that suggest the chief prosecutor and the judges after all privately agree with Jobe’s lawyer that his client is an ‘idealist fighting terrorists.’

Such, indeed, is their negative conception of Algerians that the police informer Hebri, who received 15 months, did not have his sentence suspended although he was only assisting Jobe. Muslim police informers in Europe and the Americas take note!

This latest Swiss scandal, which could be only the tip of the iceberg, bodes ill for Muslims in all European Union countries, which make no secret of their fear of the fallout from the Algerian civil war. Such is their fear that the EU now publicly supports the Algerian junta. The ministerial delegation despatched in January, as well as the parliamentary mission that toured Algeria last month, served only to put a stamp of respectability on the State terrorism responsible for the Algerian bloodbath. Both Robin Cook, the British foreign secretary (Britain is the current president of the EU) and officials of the EU Commission publicly asserted that the Algerian authorities were not linked to the violence.

The Algerian government has refused to discuss with the EU missions the role of the security forces in the mayhem, forcing them to consider how best Europe can participate in stamping out ‘terrorism’. The EU had grandly announced that the two missions would investigate all aspects of the bloody conflict. The parliamentary delegation, which arrived in Algeria on February 8 for a 5-day visit, was quickly put in its place as indicated by an incident two days later. When on February 10 a member of the mission suggested that they should be allowed to interview FIS official Shaikh Ali Bel-Haj, who is in detention, he ran into trouble with his colleagues who publicly reprimanded him.

The head of the delegation told reporters that the request was a personal one and could not be attributed to the delegation, whose official position could be stated only by the head or deputy head of the mission. It is common knowledge that the EU is interested in the violence in Algeria only in so far as it effects the flow of gas or oil and of immigration to Europe. The EU’s current attention was generated as a result of the recent surge of Kurdish immigration to Italy.

Muslimedia: March 1-15, 1998

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