Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You are a lawyer and you are a member of the group of lawyers defending Dr. Ali Ghediri, a former candidate for the September 2019 presidential election in Algeria, whom I interviewed in April 2019. Why is Dr. Ghediri in prison? What is he accused of?
Maître Nabila Slimi: Dr. Ghediri has been incarcerated in El Harrach prison since June 13, 2019 on two charges, the first of which is treason and espionage. Indeed, Dr. Ghediri is accused of complicity (with a main defendant who is a certain H.G., former president of a political party) and for having delivered to a foreign power or its agents in any form or by any means whatever, any information, thing, document or process which must be kept secret in the interests of national defense or the national economy. This charge is cited and punished by the death penalty in accordance with article 63 of the Algerian Penal Code.
The second charge against Dr. Ghediri is that he knowingly participated in an attempt to demoralize the army with the aim of harming national defense. This charge is cited and punished by imprisonment of one to five years.
It must be said that since June 10, 2020, the Indictment Chamber has decided to abandon the first charge (treason) for lack of elements, but upheld the second charge and transferred Dr. Ghediri's file to the Criminal Court to be judged at the next session, which is no longer the case after having initiated an appeal in cassation to the Supreme Court.
In your opinion, isn't Dr. Ghediri a victim of the political settlements of scores following his presidential candidacy? Isn't Dr. Ghediri a prisoner of conscience, or more precisely a political prisoner?
We are in the third world, where one cannot do politics without risking unpleasantness. Hence to say that this is a settling of scores, anything is possible, although as far as Dr. Ghediri is concerned, he took care, in all his interventions, to not hurt anyone in particular. He attacked the system without mentioning a single name. If there are people who felt targeted, it is not Dr. Ghediri's fault. On another level, when you have spent 42 years in the army, you make friends but also enemies, such is life! What hurts is precisely this mix of genres that some people use to prevail in the eyes of decision-makers, which seems to be the case, confusing issues of a professional nature with those of a political nature; and the political scene thus becomes a space not for ideas but for low blows.
How does Dr. Ghediri endure his incarceration knowing that he is infected with Covid 19? And how does his family endure the injustice that Dr. Ghediri is suffering?
Dr. Ghediri makes of his incarceration a purely political reading. He considers his detention to be arbitrary and exclusively based on purely political considerations. He refuses to stoop to the level of those who have been behind this whole cabal.
As for his family, his children continue to serve in the army with commitment and dedication, nurturing values that their father instilled in them.
However, his family is not without suffering from the injustice that befalls their father, who has always served his country with abnegation.
As a lawyer, what do you think about the length of Dr. Ghediri's pre-trial detention? Isn't it being unreasonably long, knowing his file is empty?
Dr. Ghediri's file is empty. We waited a year for the investigation to be completed and for the indictment Chamber to pronounce its deliberations. But, personally, I was surprised by its decision to abandon the first charge of treason, while the second was maintained without any basis. The worst thing in this case is that the Indictment Chamber qualified the fact as a "crime" when it was qualified as an " offense " for all the other political detainees who are now on provisional release!
Of course, Dr. Ghediri, and even we, his lawyers, rejected this unfounded decision and appealed to the final Court of Appeal. but it will take months, if not a year, for the case to be sent back to the Indictments Chamber once again to review Dr. Ghediri's case before the justice in which he strongly believes.
What is his state of mind knowing that he served Algeria as a true patriot? Dr. Ghediri does not deserve what happened to him, as was the case with General Benhadid. Shouldn't he be rehabilitated?
Dr. Ghediri, for those who know him, has a keen sense of politics in general and activism in particular. He sees sacrifice as part of the exercise of politics and as the crowning achievement of activism. It is in this spirit that he feels his incarceration, which is not without impacting his morale to make him resistant to the harsh conditions of prison.
We must not forget that he is a military man and is therefore prepared for all forms of resilience. He takes things with a lot of elevation and philosophy, which is in keeping with his condition and rank.
As for his rehabilitation, we all notice the beginning of the elimination of the mafia system that has ruled the country for more than twenty years, where many people, military or political, have been excluded because of their honesty and courage in the face of the corrupt people who have been the cause of the situation in which this country finds itself today.
That said, for the public interest, it would be better to take strong decisions and release all prisoners of conscience in general and political detainees more specifically, so that they all contribute to the construction of a new Algeria.
Dr. Ghediri served more than 40 years in the ANP (Algerian army) and was valedictorian at the Moscow Military Academy where his name is engraved in marble and where, among others, President Putin was trained. Is not this great gentleman rather a model of righteousness and probity for all officers and NCOs in the Algerian army? Isn't his place elsewhere than in prison?
As you say, Dr. Ghediri has been awarded several times in his 42 years of service by foreign countries including Russia, Syria and the United States, and the sad reality is that this was not the case in Algeria, because instead of honoring him after his retirement, they put him in prison just because he wanted to be president of the republic and had promised to break with the system.
Unlike other military personnel who have retired, Dr. Ghediri studied political science and even obtained his PhD with high honors. He has also studied management, speaks three foreign languages, and has a lot of ideas that can be useful in solving problems in different areas. I think it is time to put an end to the settling of scores and to invest in anyone who has the capacity to give something extra for the development of the country. And, having been close to Dr. Ghediri since his incarceration to this day, I have no doubt that Dr. Ghediri will continue to serve the country with dedication.
I must confess to you that I do not understand this accusation of "undermining the morale of the army" when this great man has served the Algerian army all his life. Is there a legal explanation for this accusation?
The principals relied on the content of the interview published in the newspaper El Watan of December 25, 2018 to find material to incriminate Dr. Ghediri. I invite you to read the article and let you be the judge. Dr. Ghediri considers that this was a subterfuge to justify his incarceration and thus prevent him from participating in the planned presidential elections.
Are you optimistic for the future knowing that several high-ranking officers and other officers who have been unjustly incarcerated are currently being released?
Personally, I believe in the measures of appeasement taken by the President of the Republic and this is Dr. Ghediri's opinion. This is the reason that led him to contact the country's chief magistrate with an open letter last June. Mr. Tebboune talks to us about his good intentions, but we would like to see this on the ground, starting with justice for all those who have been victims of the system, including Dr. Ghediri.
How do you explain the fact that a man who has served the country devotedly, from a respectable family, is being treated in this way, while some thugs enjoy total freedom?
Dr. Ghediri, unlike other personalities, faced a mafia clan and promised to break with it, he also wanted to run for president. In conclusion, he was "disturbing" a lot because he was aware of the conspiracy of the fifth term and what was going on behind the scenes of this Mafia system. That said, his presence on the political scene did not please some who had another project for Algeria.
Do you have a message for public opinion or the Algerian authorities regarding the case of Dr. Ghediri?
I think the message has already been conveyed in the two letters written by Dr. Ghediri, whether it be in the first open letter to everyone, but especially to the first magistrate of the country, or in the second letter dated July 6 and intended for public opinion when Dr. Ghediri had decided to start a hunger strike which was broken 6 days later because of his contamination with Covid 19 in El Harrach prison. Reading these two letters, you will certainly find many messages such as the unjust incarceration of Dr. Ghediri which really requires a reaction from the President of the Republic as the first magistrate of the country, in accordance with the Algerian constitution.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Maître Nabila Slimi?
Maître Nabila Slimi is an Algerian lawyer, member of the collective of lawyers in charge of the defense of Dr. Ali Ghediri, former candidate in the presidential elections of 2019. Daughter of a father commander of the ANP (National People's Army) who died as a martyr in 1994 in a clash with terrorists in Constantine when she was a child, she attended university studies and graduated in law in 2008 at the University of Benyoucef Benkhedda in Algiers and was admitted to the Bar of Algiers in 2011. It was while campaigning in a political party that supported the presidential candidacy of Dr. Ali Ghediri, a retired Major General of the ANP, that she met him and learned that he had well known his father. She left the party when it stopped supporting Dr. Ghediri and has since campaigned for a rule of law under the sole flag of her country. Maître Slimi has been defending Dr. Ghediri since the beginning of his incarceration in June 2019.
Published in American Herald Tribune July 29, 2020: https://ahtribune.com/interview/4323-maitre-nabila-slimi.html