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Algerian Islamist leader ducks arrest

An Algerian political leader escaped Switzerland last Friday before he could be arrested on charges of torture.

Bouguerra Soltani, the leader of the Islamic Society Movement for Peace and a former Algerian minister, was visiting Geneva. He had planned to attend a Muslim conference in Fribourg on October 17.

A Swiss non-governmental organisation tracking suspected war criminals said Soltani cut short his stay following a complaint submitted to a magistrate in canton Fribourg. The group, TRIAL, believes Soltani received the information through a leak.

Judge Jean-Luc Mooser on October 12 received a complaint from Nouar Abdelmalek, an Algerian who alleges he suffered numerous beatings during a torture session led by Soltani on July 1, 2005.

Mooser said he would have summoned Soltani had the Algerian's whereabouts been known. Soltani was not covered by diplomatic immunity, the Swiss foreign ministry had informed the judge.

"TRIAL regrets Mr Soltani's escape but is satisfied that Swiss authorities seriously tried to implement their international obligations by initiating a proceeding against an individual suspected of acts of torture," the NGO said in a statement.


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