ALGIERS, 18 February 2021 – Eight jihadists were sentenced to death Thursday by an Algerian court for the kidnapping and beheading six years ago of French mountaineer Herve Gourdel.
Only one of the eight, Abdelmalak Hamzaoui, who is in custody, was present in court Thursday during the one-day trial.
The seven others were tried in absentia, found guilty and equally sentenced to death for the murder of Gourdel.
The 55-year-old French national was exploring the rugged massif in Djurdiura National Park, a dreamland for hikers, when he was kidnapped by eight jihadist militants.
The eight are members of Jihadists of Jund al-Khilafa – Arabic for Soldiers of the Caliphate – a group affiliated to the Islamic State group.
Jund al-Khilafa claimed responsibility for the crime and posted video of the gruesome beheading three days after Gourdel was kidnapped.
Hamzaoui was brought to court by ambulance in a wheelchair accompanied by a medical team and watched over by police special forces.
During the trial, Hamzaoui denied any involvement with the murder, claiming that he was accused reportedly in order to bring closure to family members of the French national as well as please the French government that justice had been done.
Members of Gourdel’s family, including his girlfriend, Francoise Grandclaude, were in the public gallery.
Six other accused – five of them Gourdel’s hiking companions – also on trial for failing to promptly report the kidnapping of Gourdel to Algerian authorities were all acquitted.
Gourdel’s hiking companions spent 14 hours in captivity along with him before being released.
Four of them formally identified Hamzaoui in court as being one of the kidnappers.
“We tried to stop them, but they pushed us back saying: ‘You don’t care, he’s not a Muslim’”, one of Gourdel’s climbing companions told the court.
A moratorium on executions, which has been in place since 1993 in Algeria, means that the murderer is effectively sentenced to life in prison.