UPDATED: Secret Zaoui Witness At Classified Hearing Arrested In Spain, Flees to Germany
STATE OF IT: By Selwyn Manning – Scoop co-editor
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Col. Mohammed Samraoui: Scoop image by Selwyn Manning.
Mohammed Samraoui, once Algeria's top spook for north Europe and a secret witness in the Ahmed Zaoui hearings was recently arrested in Spain awaiting deportation papers from Algiers. Col. Samraoui fled this week back to Germany, fearing for his life.
Col. Samraoui was a secret witness who in July/August 2007 testified at the closed and classified SIS V. Ahmed Zaoui 'Open Hearings' in Auckland, New Zealand, before the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Justice Paul Neazor.
Col. Samraoui was arrested on October 22 2007 by the Spanish police force in Benalmádena (in the province of Malaga), where he was participating in an international chess event. Samraoui is president of the International Correspondence Chess Federation – www.iccf.com.
The charges were communicated via Interpol and originated from Algiers. The charges accused the former Algerian intelligence section head of: "desertion, damage to the morale of the army, and terrorist activity".
On arrest, he was detained in custody, and later transferred to Soto del Real high security prison in Madrid. On October 31, he was bailed by the antiterrorist judge, Ismael Moreno, of the Audiencia Nacional (the National Court of Spain).
Mohamed Samraoui said in a statement released via Rachad (an Algerian opposition party in exile of which he is a founding member): "The [Spanish] police officers asked me to follow them to Torremolinos police station where at around 2 p.m. I was told I am sought on three charges: desertion, breach of the army code, and terrorist activity.”
He demanded the assistance of a representative from the German consulate. Spanish authorities refused this. His German passport was confiscated. He was prevented from returning to Germany where he has refugee status and the protection of the German government. Spain continued to refuse to return his identity papers, and Col. Samraoui was ordered to report to the Police every two days.
The conditional release left Col. Samraoui vulnerable while the judge awaited extradition papers to arrive from Algiers. It was at this time that Spain appeared to become uneasy and Mohammed Samraoui was warned that he was in danger. Algeria had 40 days to serve extradition request papers on Spain.
The documents arrived on Friday on November 23 2007 but had been altered. Col. Samraoui has told Scoop that the documents now state that: “through my declarations I have encouraged terrorism in Algeria” and that “I sold in 1992 my flat in Algiers for 7500 EUR, which are silly allegations in both case and of course it is very easy to refute these accusations," Col. Samraoui said.
That deadline was over when Mohammed Samraoui fled Spain for the safety of Germany on Sunday December 2 without notifying his family. He arrived in Germany on Monday. In a release issued this Wednesday, Samraoui stated Spanish officials had told him that his life was in danger, so he decided to flee Spain, abandoning that state's judicial process, for the safety of Germany.
Replying to Scoop Col. Samraoui said: "I am now in Germany because it seems to me evident that the Spanish justice did not intend to issue a decision before the meeting between Algerian and Spanish authorities which will be held in January to find an arrangement about the Gaz conflict which is opposing the two countries. I do not wish to be a hostage in this conflict," Col. Samraoui said.
Mohammed Samraoui was an officer in the Algerian security services from 1980 – 1996, achieving the rank of Colonel. He had joined intelligence in 1979 and rapidly climbed the ladder of promotion, becoming head of the political police, Sécurité Militaire (SM) in an army brigade. He then moved into economic intelligence and received counter-terrorist training in Italy and with the KGB in Moscow.
In January 1990 to March 1990 he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Algerian Counter-Espionage. Later, from September 1992 to January 1996 Col. Samraoui became a military attaché in Bonn (with diplomatic cover). There, he was responsible to the Algerian intelligence service, the DRS, stationed in Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic and Austria.
In 1995, he was asked by Smain Lamari - the head of the Algerian intelligence service's Department of Counter-Espionage and Internal Security - to assassinate two FIS [Islamic Salvation Party] leaders abroad, Abdelkader Sahraoui and Rabah Kebir. Sahraoui was assassinated on July 11, 1995. The GIA took credit for the murder. Kebir later became a compliant to Algiers' wishes, was given amnesty by the Algerian state and was returned safely to Algeria in 2006.
In 1996 Samraoui refused to further commit a plan to assassinate other FIS leaders, and was dismissed from the DRS. He sought asylum in Germany and was granted refugee status there.
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Col. Mohammed Samraoui. Scoop image by Selwyn Manning.
Col. Mohammed Samraoui's testimony before New Zealand's Justice Neazor unravelled the clandestine activities of the Algeria regime, its disinformation campaign, and mission of state-sanctioned terror, targeting France, Belgium, Germany and much of north Europe from 1992 to 1996.
He spoke of how he personally had masterminded a disinformation campaign against Ahmed Zaoui and other FIS leaders who were in exile in France and Belgium in the years following the December 1991/January 1992 Algeria military coup.
Col. Samraoui said Mr Zaoui was targeted due to his willingness and ability to persuade the FIS leaders and Catholic intermediaries based in Rome (the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio) during 1994-95 to draw the Algerian regime into a dialogue known as the Rome Platform. Essentially the Sant'Egidio Platform, as it was also known, was an attempt by most of the major Algerian opposition parties to put an end to the Algerian Civil War.
According to Samraoui, the regime did not wish to enter mediation nor dialogue but could not be seen to stall peace talks – so instead embarked on a disinformation campaign to discredit Ahmed Zaoui and other 'moderate' leaders among the FIS hierarchy. The charges laid against Mr Zaoui and others in Belgium and France in the 1990s were as a consequence of this disinformation and subsequent association, he said.
In the months and years following the coup, much of the FIS's leadership in the democratically elected party fled Algeria for the safety of Europe. Ahmed Zaoui was among them. Back in Algeria, tens of thousands were murdered, some reports place the missing and murdered at over 250,000 people, but no military nor government officials have been charged with related offences. Many thousands more were interned without charge in Algerian-styled gulags deep in the Sahara.
Samraoui said he acted on orders originating from the heart of Algeria's government and commanded by the regime's generals. The orders included acts of espionage, disinformation sewn into the media and government agencies in north Europe, and black operations under the guise of the GIA – a construct of the DRS.
The GIA was a supposed armed Islamic terrorist group that was actually used as a ruse-vehicle by the Algerian regime to create a climate of fear and carry out assassinations of its opponents. The regime later disbanded the GIA.
Mohammed Samraoui's work as military attache’ in Germany included: The surveillance of the Algerian opposition members abroad; The development of cooperation with European partners; The operation and dissemination of propaganda in order to win political support and to discredit the FIS leadership abroad; The recruitment and the infiltration of agents within the opposition circles; The corruption of journalists, businessmen and prominent politicians, in order to create pro-Algerian lobbies overseas.
According to Samraoui the DRS noted Ahmed Zaoui had become significant to Algeria intelligence once he actively participated in the negotiations of Sant Egidio, in Rome in 1994/95. Clearly the Algerian regime was against the Sant Egidio peace initiative, as the regime then resisted any moves toward peace and reconciliation that it could not control.
Samraoui said: "Zaoui is innocent of the crimes that he is accused of in Belgium and France. I make that statement with certainty because I myself was involved in the campaign that was created against the Islamist leaders in Europe (including Ahmed Zaoui) to discredit them and to try and have them deported to Algeria."
Mohammed Samraoui said: "In August 1994, to discredit the political leaders of the FIS, the Algerian DRS published a fake GIA communiqué signed by Djamel Zitouni, which evoked the constitution of a 'GIA government in exile'. Included in this 'GIA Government' were Mohammed Said, Zitouni, Anwar Haddam and Ahmed Zaoui.
"I can confirm however that this was a false communiqué by the DRS, attempting to link these FIS leaders to terrorist acts so that they would be expelled from their respective countries of refuge… I reiterate that Ahmed Zaoui never belonged to the GIA," Mohammed Samraoui said.
In November/December 1993, and then in 1994 the decision was taken by the DRS to 'neutralise' Zaoui.
"We sought to neutralise him by sending out operational agents with the intention of incriminating him, in order to lend more weight and veracity to the notes that had been sent by the Algerian services to the Belgians – in other words, by trying to persuade the Belgians that they had a 'terrorist' in their territory.
"We were successful in our strategy," Mohammed Samraoui said.
This man's testimony arguably rendered the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service's case against former Algerian MP Ahmed Zaoui as ill-informed and irrelevant.
The arrest in Spain of Mohammed Samraoui sent shock through the European Chess fraternity. The International Correspondence Chess Federation issued the following statement to its members: "We regret to now advise that ICCF President Med Samraoui was detained by local Spanish police on the morning of Monday 22nd October and it is understood that he has since been transferred to Madrid. Delegates were stunned by this development but it has not been possible to obtain any information about the reasons for Med’s detention.
"The ICCF Executive Board considered the prevailing circumstances and Congress agreed unanimously on contingency measures to ensure continuity of ICCF leadership.
"Deputy President George Pyrich will deputise for the ICCF President until such time as the situation has been clarified."
Analysts and commentators in Europe are dismayed at why Spain should buckle to Algeria's request to arrest Samraoui – and why now?
The Rachad organization wrote: "Samraoui has traveled regularly throughout Europe and has never had to go through such an ordeal, so it is astonishing that the Spanish authorities have acted in such a way."
Another commentator wrote:
"…what is surprising is that the Spanish government should agree to detain someone who is a recognised political refugee in a fellow EU country, and then embark on a process which could lead to that person being repatriated to a country where he can hardly expect to receive a warm welcome... Different motives have been suggested for the cooperation by Spain. One suggestion is that they want Algerian cooperation with the resolution of the conflict in what used to be the Spanish Sahara. Another, stronger, reason why they might want to please the Algerian government is the business potential of the huge reserves of natural gas which that country possesses."
In Summary: It could also be suggested that the arrest is symbolic and a signal. That Algeria has retaliated now - just three months after Col. Samraoui gave his testimony in the Ahmed Zaoui case - due to the former intelligence head detailing a chronology before Western Alliance intelligence officers in far off New Zealand of the Algerian regime's method operandi and how its clandestine black operations have been carried out inside Europe throughout the past 15 years.
While the testimony of Mohammed Samraoui's is not new to the French judiciary and is the subject of two books that he has authored, if one considers Col. Samraoui's audience in Auckland, the information will certainly have achieved considerable reach into the Western intelligence community's record. And that, in a world where Algeria has long sought legitimacy in global affairs (its position and co-operation on the US-led War on Terror and United Nations bodies are two cases in point) is certainly contrary to the military-controlled oil-rich state's interests.
Why Spain has thus far buckled to Algeria's pressure remains a mystery.
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