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Algeria court sentences two Islamists to death

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Two Islamists accused of killing 500 people during Algeria's civil war, including the rape and murder of 60 women, were sentenced to death on Sunday, an AFP correspondent said.

The judge sentenced Djilali Kouri, 32, and Antar Ali, 35, to death for "founding and running a terrorist group that killed and spread terror among the population and that murdered hundreds of civilians and soldiers" between 1996 and 2004.

Kouri and Ali admitted having killed members of the security forces in the civil war, but denied raping and killing civilians.

"Kouri has already been sentenced to death for some of the charges against him, but sought acquittal on the other counts," said Brahim Behloul, the court-appointed lawyer for both accused.

"Antar Ali asked to be considered under the Civil Concord law," said Behloul, referring to a law adopted by referendum in 1999 to encourage thousands of Islamists to surrender in exchange for a pardon.

The law offers amnesty to Islamist fighters who do not have blood on their hands.

Ali and Kouri told investigators they were part of a group of Islamist fighters in the Chlef region during the civil war, and took part in operations in other areas.

The Algerian press has reported that the pair confessed to killing soldiers and members of auxiliary units in northern Algeria, as well as taking part in the rape and murder of scores of women.

While they admitted in court killing members of the security forces, they denied involvement in the rape and murder of civilians.

"I admit having participated in the killing of five soldiers and five municipal guards, but I did not massacre civilians and rape women," Kouri told the court.

Ali also said that he had "taken part in ambushes against the military," but denied playing a role in the massacre of civilians.

"I did not commit massacres, I was fighting the authorities. I'm not a terrorist, I am myself a victim," he told the court.

As the verdict was read out, a mother of one of the victims stood up and shouted "Long live Algeria! Long live justice!"

While Algerian courts still hand down the death penalty, it is no longer applied under a moratorium adopted in 1993.

Originally the trial had been set for April 1, but Antar Ali rejected the court-appointed lawyer to defend him, causing a postponement.

The civil war, which broke out after the government annulled an election won by the Islamic Salvation Front, killed around 200,000 people according to official estimates.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130505/algeria-court-sentences-two-islamists-death