Algeria frees key member of banned Islamic party
July 15, 1997
Web posted at: 3:33 p.m. EDT (1933 GMT)
ALGIERS, Algeria (CNN) -- A leading member of Algeria's
banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Abassi Madani, was
released Tuesday on parole. He was less than halfway through
a 12-year prison sentence for undermining state security.
Diplomats called the release a dramatic step but said it was
unlikely to end violence in the North African country.
Algeria has seen a rise in violence since it held multi-party
general elections on June 5, and hundreds of people have been
killed in attacks blamed on Muslim fundamentalists.
The outlawed FIS leadership in Europe described the move as
"a positive act by President Liamine Zeroual and a
contribution to the settlement of the crisis and to the
return of peace."
The statement called for all political prisoners held by
Algerian authorities to be freed, including FIS deputy leader
Sheikh Ali Belhadj.
Madani, 66, was serving a 12-year jail term imposed in 1992
for threatening state security after a strike and riots
preceded Algeria's multi-party general election planned for
Madani charismatic, persuasive speaker
Madani is a charismatic figure who rose to prominence thanks
to his ability to rally support for his cause. He is a
persuasive speaker able to spin slogans that have earned him
a large following in Algeria.
His goal through his career has been to overthrow the secular
government he describes as "authoritarian" and to replace it
with the first Islamist regime in North Africa.
In 1954, he was jailed after he attacked the Algiers radio
station on the day Algeria's war of independence against
France erupted. He remained imprisoned throughout the
He rose up the political ladder during riots in October 1988
against one-party rule by the National Liberation Front
(FLN), then took the top spot when the FIS was officially
recognized one year later.
Madani's first electoral victory came in June 1990 during the
first multi-party local elections. He subsequently positioned
himself as the potential successor to then-president Chadli
Madani's call for an "unlimited general strike" in May 1991
to force Bendjedid to call early elections turned quickly
into a showdown with the authorities, with the army declaring
a state of emergency on June 5, 1991, and arresting top
Islamist leaders, including Madani.
Nonetheless, in December 1991 the FIS won the first round of
national legislative elections. The military again stepped
in, suspending the second round that was to have been held in
January 1992. The FIS was outlawed in April 1992.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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