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Government Arrests Director of Largest Algerian Newspaper

December 11, 1995

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Authorities suspended publication of Algeria’s largest newspaper and arrested its director as he was leaving for Paris to receive a literary prize.

The director of the French-language Liberte, Aubrous Outoudert, and the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Hacene Ouandjeli, were charged Sunday with ``repeated publication of a defamatory news item.″

Outoudert was jailed, the editor was freed and both men’s passports were confiscated at the Algiers airport.

The government also ordered the daily newspaper, which is aligned with a small secular opposition party, to suspend publication for 15 days.

In a report last Thursday, Liberte said President Liamine Zeroual’s military adviser, Gen. Mohamed Betchine, had been a member of Algeria’s repressive political police, officially disbanded in 1989. Liberte ran a correction Saturday stating that wasn’t true.

Outoudert was trying to leave for Paris to receive the Noureddine Aba prize, a literary award from an Algerian secular foundation designed to draw attention to Algerian writers. But he was arrested before he got on the plane.

Outoudert has had no contact with colleagues or lawyers, according to the French group Reporters Without Borders. The journalists’ rights group has written to Zeroual demanding Outoudert’s release.

Algerian media groups announced a three-day strike starting Tuesday to protest the arrest. Journalists, along with intellectuals and foreigners, have been a prime target of the Islamic rebels trying to topple the secular government.

On Dec. 3, two journalists from Liberte were tortured and decapitated. In all, 46 journalists have been killed since May 1993 in attacks apparently committed by the rebels.

There has been a resurgence of violence since the Nov. 16 election of Zeroual, appointed head of a caretaker government last year. The balloting registered a large turnout despite threats by rebels to kill voters.

More than 40,000 people have died in Algeria’s civil war, which erupted in January 1992 when the army canceled legislative elections that an Islamic fundamentalist party was poised to win.

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