Algerian denies role in deadly 1995 Paris bombings

Subscribe to Oneindia News

PARIS, Oct 1 (Reuters) An Algerian went on trial today for complicity in the murders of eight people in a trio of bomb attacks on the Paris rail network in 1995 and denied any links with two men convicted of planting two of the bombs.

Rachid Ramda, 38, in an interview with the Liberation newspaper, accused the French authorities of putting him on trial twice for the same events and his lawyers said the case should be thrown out on those grounds.

Algeria's radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA) claimed responsibility for the blasts, which were intended to punish French support for Algerian authorities who scrapped multi-party elections in 1992 that an Islamist party had been poised to win.

Ramda is already serving a 10-year jail sentence after he was found guilty in March 2006 of terrorist conspiracy connected to the 1995 attacks.

He was extradited in December 2005 to France from Britain after losing a 10-year legal battle -- during which he was in detention -- and now faces life imprisonment if found guilty of being an accomplice in the attacks -- a more serious charge than his original conspiracy conviction.

Eight people died and some 200 others were maimed and wounded in attacks on the St Michel and Musee d'Orsay suburban railway stations, and the Maison Blanche metro station.

The court heard today how the bombers packed nails and bolts around gas cylinders to cause maximum injuries.

Prosecutors say Ramda was an envoy of Djamel Zitouni, a leader of the GIA, which claimed responsibility for the blasts via Al Ansar -- an unofficial publication of the group run by Ramda in London.

DENIAL Dressed in a white shirt and dark jacket, Ramda listened intently as a court official started the five-hour reading of the charges against him at the Paris Assizes Court.

He was not asked to enter a plea and only spoke to confirm his age, date of birth and answer other procedural questions.

In today's newspaper interview, the first time he has spoken publicly about the attacks, Ramda denied masterminding the 1995 blasts: ''I was not and am not, in a position to give orders to anyone because I possess no such power.'' He has denied any involvement in the attacks, the worst bombing campaign in mainland France since World War Two, and denied knowing Boualem Bensaid and Smain Ali Belkacem, who were convicted in 2002 of two of the three bombings.

Prosecutors during his first trial said evidence seized at his London address, including documents relating to an Algerian radical group and a Western Union payment slip bearing his fingerprints, showed he sent 10,150 dollars to the Paris bombers.

Ramda told the newspaper he did not contest the fingerprints, only the interpretation put on their discovery.

British police arrested Ramda in 1995 on a French warrant but the authorities refused to extradite him on the grounds that he might be mistreated by French anti-terrorism police.

The decision acutely frustrated the French authorities, who believed the British were underestimating the threat posed by Islamic militants based in the British capital -- dubbed ''Londonistan'' by some critics of the British policy.

The climate changed in Britain following the deaths of 52 people in the July 2005 suicide bomb attacks on London's transport system, clearing the way for Ramda's extradition.

REUTERS AM BST232

Please Wait while comments are loading...