Boudjemaa Ayad, one of Islamist movement founders in Algeria said he tortured and affected by asthma in jail. Torture was stopped following the appointment of Colonel Ahmed Bencherif as Gendarmerie Commander, he told Echorouk in an interview.
How do you explain that a gendarme allowed you to sleep and another one did not want you to pray?
This shows that good and bad people are everywhere in the Algerian society. A gendarme struck me in the face, stomach and pelvis after he had seen me praying. He also struck the rest of prisoners. I continued praying and I will never forgive him.
The day after, he got a tumor in his leg. He had stolen my money because he was the first one who searched me after I had been arrested.
Why were students arrested?
Gendarmes found their names and phone numbers at Mahfoud Nahnah’s house. They were released by Colonel Ahmed Bencherif.
Did gendarmes continue torturing you?
No, they didn’t. We were directly transferred to justice and we did not know what happened to Cheikh Nahnah. A student told us Nahnah he was in Gendarmerie station.
Before the appointment of Colonel Bencherif, no one knew about our whereabouts. Nahnah and Mohamed Kirat were tortured as well.
How were you tortured?
We were beaten and were not allowed to sleep neither were we allowed to go to toilet. Gendarmes caused noise and insulted us.
Do you know the name of the gendarme who stole your money?
Yes, I do but I do not want to say his name because I do not want his family to be hurt.
Is he still alive?
I do not know. I will never forgive him.
What happened when you were transferred to the examining judge?
It was on December 17th in 1976. After we were introduced to the Attorney General, we were officially detained pending for investigation. Some of us were sent to a military prison in Boufarik and others to a prison in Blida.
We stayed there until December 21st. It was a cold and foggy morning. We were taken to the prison court. Colonel Belhochet came and started talking. “We fought for the sake of Islam. We are going to build the biggest mosque (Kouther mosque).” A prisoner interrupted him saying: “Colonel, I do not know you only through TV.” Belhochet was furious and said: “take them away” and he went. I was put in a room with Cheikh Bouslimani.
How did you spend time there with Cheikh Bouslimani?
It was an opportunity to know closely Cheikh Bouslimani. We talked about the situation and our work. Bouslimani had no idea about my work. I thank people including students and teachers who helped us and our families.
We looked after each other and we urged prisoners to learn how to pray and to help each other.
How was the general situation in prison?
The room was crowded with about 95 people. Light was low and the place smelt bad. There was one toilet and one tap. We used the same razor and we stayed there all the day and all the night. We were allowed to go out only to eat but for just 10 minutes. I was so horribly tortured that I wish if I died.
We went to the toilet one a week because we did not eat a lot. We had stayed there for one month. Cheikh Bouslimani was taken to court to be questioned. We continued teaching prisoners about prayers and religion.
The prison administration noticed that many prisoners started praying. Some of them were punished for that. I was affected by asthma because of high humidity. We did not have enough water and our relatives were allowed to visit us twice a month. Lawyer Belmiloud visited me twice and were taken one by one to examining judge.
Once, I met Cheikh Nahnah in the court. He secretly told me to deny allegations against me.