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Algerian groups wants French torturers to go on trial

Algerian groups wants French torturers to go on trial

ALGIERS, Algeria (Reuters) -- A group representing victims of Algeria's struggle for independence from France four decades ago said on Sunday that French army generals who have admitted the use of torture during the war should be brought to justice.

A controversy has erupted in France following the recent admission by two generals who played key roles in the notorious 1957 Battle of Algiers that torture and summary executions had been used widely in the fight against nationalists in the then North African French colony.

"We welcome the realization by the French political class and above all by the torturers of that era that the use of torture was systematic" during the war, said Mohammed El Korso, president of the May 8, 1945 Foundation, a private body which seeks financial reparations for victims of the 1954-1962 war.

"We ask that justice be done and that the generals be tried before French or international courts," he told Reuters.

The human rights group Amnesty International called on Friday for French officers responsible for systematic torture and mass disappearances to be put on trial for crimes against humanity.

The French Communist Party, which backed Algerian nationalists during the conflict, has called for a public apology and the creation of a parliamentary commission of investigation.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin disagrees.

"Torture in Algeria, the acts of violence which may have taken place during this conflict, which was a colonial conflict, do not require an act of collective repentance in my view," he said on Saturday.

"It is not even something that requires judicial procedures. This is something that requires a quest for truth," he added.

The Algerian government has made no official comment on the issue and the official media have reported the debate heating up in France without comment.

Some non-governmental newspapers, however, said it was part of France's political battle.

On Saturday the French-language daily newspaper El Watan deplored a debate that was "increasingly taking on pre-electoral overtones," an apparent reference to the 2002 presidential elections in France.

But it welcomed the fact that "tongues are loosening" and that the use of torture during the war was now admitted.

Another French-language newspaper, Le Matin, said a taboo had been broken but that this "bitter debate was only starting."

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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