Mohamed Benhalima, a former soldier deported to Algeria from Spain, in a file.
Spain’s decision in late March to extradite Algerian dissident Mohamed Benhalima, accused of “terrorism” in his home country, remains controversial. As EL PAIS has learned, Benhalima lawyers have filed a complaint against Spain with the United Nations for violating two articles of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Benhalima, a former Algerian army officer, is currently in a prison in the city of Blida and has assured his Algerian lawyers and relatives that he has suffered “sexual abuse and torture”. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International consider the terror allegations against him to be false.
The extradition of Benhalima, who had applied for asylum in Spain but was turned down, came just days after an ongoing conflict erupted between Algiers and Madrid after Pedro Sánchez’s executive changed its position on the Western Sahara conflict to to join the Moroccan theses. In response, Algeria summoned its ambassador to Madrid for consultations. Some analysts interpreted Benhalima’s extradition as a gesture to appease the Algerian government’s anger.
“The latest information from his lawyers is that they have put him back in solitary confinement,” said Assia Guechoud, president of the Mohamed Abdallah Support Association, another former military victim of reprisals and close to the Benhalima family. “I was there 45 days ago. His physical and mental state is very worrying, but they won’t let him see a doctor.” Guechoud also claims that his first two lawyers were arrested after visiting him in prison and now face three years in prison.
Last April, a few weeks after his extradition, it was revealed that Benhalima had been sentenced in absentia in March 2021 to 20 years in prison on charges including “membership of a terrorist organization” and “publication of fake news that the judiciary undermine”. national unity”. This latest allegation relates to the publication of videos in which he denounces corruption in the Algerian army He was sentenced to death, against which his lawyers had appealed, but the Spanish authorities said at the time that they were unaware of the sentence before proceeding with the extradition.
In the last four months, several videos have been leaked to the Algerian press in which Benhalima, already in police custody, admits conspiring against the state and denies having been tortured since his return to Algeria. He also assures that a conspiracy against Algeria was instigated by foreign powers and “Algerian terrorists” who were actually only looking for “money and women”. Before his extradition, Benhalima himself warned in a video taken in Valencia that videos of him admitting falsehoods would be broadcast after he had been “subjected to severe torture at the hands of the secret services”.
What affects most is what happens next. Subscribe so you don’t miss anything.
A group of 14 human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, issued a statement on March 29 calling Benhalima’s deportation a “blatant breach of Spain’s international obligations” citing an obvious risk of torture. In addition, they criticize that the Spanish authorities have not provided any evidence that Benhalima committed any type of terrorist act or hate speech. “It seems that the authorities [españolas] They have failed to take into account a context in which the Algerian authorities very often level abusive terrorist allegations against peaceful militants.
These organizations consider Benhalima, who was born in 1989, to be a dissident who limited himself to publicly denouncing corruption in the army and took part in the peaceful demonstrations known as Hirak, which called for sweeping changes in the political system in 2019. Spanish authorities credit Benhalima with membership of Algerian opposition party Rachad, which Algiers declared a “terrorist organization” last year. Although the group, founded in 2007 by Algerian exiles in Europe, claims to be an ideologically pluralistic platform, it is considered close to Islamist postulates. There are currently no known attacks or acts of violence.