Algeria Sentences Jihadist to Death for Murder of French Mountaineer

An Algerian court has sentenced a man to death for the kidnapping and murder of French hiker Hervé Gourdel in 2014, after a high profile one-day trial.

Gourdel, 55, was abducted in September 2014 while exploring the rugged massif in Algeria’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 – a jihadist faction affiliated to the Islamic State armed group – published a gruesome video of his beheading and claimed responsibility for his death.

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.

Only one of the eight, Abdelmalek Hamzaoui, appeared in court, with the other seven tried and sentenced to death in absentia.

Questioned by the judge, Hamzaoui had denied having taken part in Gourdel’s abduction and killing, telling the court he was accused only to “close the case and please the French”.

Hamzaoui was sentenced to death, but Algeria has had a moratorium on executions since 1993.

Assassinat de Hervé Gourdel : le principal accusé condamné à mort #HervéGourdel

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‘Still in shock’

Members of Gourdel’s family, including his partner Françoise Grandclaude, attended the trial.

“I find it very difficult to talk about him (Gourdel), we are still in shock,” Grandclaude said. “But I remember that there are a lot of inconsistencies in the words of the main accused.”

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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.

Several of them formally identified Hamzaoui in court as being one of their kidnappers.

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.