Boudjemaa Ayad, one of Islamist movement founders in Algeria said a prisoner wrote a report accusing him of an attempt to break out of the prison. Speaking about the phone poles cutting case, he told Echorouk in an interview Cheikh Mahfoud Nahnah criticized the regime.
What are the questions investigators asked you?
In the first time, I found my mum in the room. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to say hello to her. The guard pushed me to the examining judge. I was asked: “do you know Mahfoud Nahnah?” I answered: “I know him through some tapes only.” “What about Mohamed Kirat?”. I answered: “We live in the same area and we pray together.” “Who are the imams you attend their lectures?” and some other questions.
Was the examining judge severe?
Yes, but he changed his attitude in the end of the questioning.
The Attorney General told me: “if a pregnant woman was about to deliver and asked for an ambulance but the phone was cut, would you have imagined the catastrophe?” I said: “we did not cut cables but poles.” The, he started looking at pictures. He found out that cables were not cut.
Fifteen days before appearing in court, I was taken to a psychologist. He asked me about my age, my education and job.
Later, the lawyer visited me and told that I would appear in court.
How did you deal with the lawyer?
I had reserves. I did not want to give information which may reach the examining judge. The lawyer told me: “you did not cooperate with me though I work for you.”
What happened in prison?
We did not stop urging prisoners to pray. Cheikh Daoud was teaching a prisoner who found it difficult to pronounce number 2 in French. He ironically said: “Deux, je m’en fous alih”. That means I do not care about number 2. Another prisoner was smoking and he ashed his cigarette on a newspaper. Accidently the cigarette was on President Houari Boumediene’s picture. A prisoner in charge of reporting to the examining judge thought the “Deux, je m’en fous alih” phrase as a code which meant helping prisoner No 2 to break out of prison. He also thought the prisoner who ashed his cigarette on the president’s picture hated the regime. Few minutes later, the administration searched us and were about to take off our clothes. A sports fun made a rope using a blanket to exercise. The prison administration thought the rope would be used to break out of the prison. We had never thought of breaking out of the prison. The administration stepped up surveillance measures and banned visits.
I also remember that a prisoner was reciting the Quran. A guard heard him and started beating him. He had suffered from pains for days.
How long had investigations lasted?
We had stayed at the National Gendarmerie station for 10 days and in a prison in Blida for a month. The investigation had lasted for 5 months. Then, we were divided into three groups: Nahnah and his assistants’ group, the group which cut the poles and the group which wrote the circular.
We appeared in court on May 4th, 1977 in a military tribunal in Blida.
Could Nahnah defend himself?
Most of the questions were intended to Nahnah. He answered all of them without hesitation. He criticized the regime for betraying the liberation revolution principles, following socialists and marginalizing Algerians. He concluded his statement, saying: “I bear all the responsibility.”
A part of the questions were intended to Mohamed Kirat. The judge tried to push him to admit accusations but he did not do that though the questions were very embarrassing.
How were you questioned?
I was asked whether it was me who cut the poles and I said yes because there were evidences. Most of the prisoners were asked the same questions.
What were your sentences?
It was between one and 15 years. Cheikh Nahnah got 15 years in prison and Kirat was sentenced to 10 years.
I was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Ten days later, I was transferred to a prison in Batna and then to Barouaguia and Chlef.
How did you respond to that?
No one complained of the sentence. Most of the prisoners were smiling and even the other prisoners were surprised by our reaction. The first thing we discussed was our wives and to suggest to them whether they wanted divorce or not.
How did your wives react?
My wife visited to me and I saw her wearing the scarf for the first time. She came with my uncle and mum. When I told her about divorce, she said that was not the right time to talk about that. My mother told me: “I am your mum and I am like your father, brother and friend. Don’t worry and take care of yourself.”
All the wives refused to get divorced and this was a normal reaction among Muslim women.
Was your wife the first woman who wore the scarf?
My wife used to wear “hayek”, an Algerian traditional dress. When I was sentenced, she wore the hidjab. The first woman who wore the scarf was born in France and living in Madania in Algiers.
To be continued..