Monks of Tibhirine

Although their story is still unknown in the U.S., the deaths of the 7 Monks of Tibhirine, in Algeria, in 1993, has long held the attention of both the French and Algerian public. For the spiritual testimony it announces. For the reflection of French-Algerian relations it provides. For the mire of french secret services it captures. The death of the trappist monks, which produced one of the most moving, contemporary documents of interfaith friendship, left behind in a letter of last testament by the abbey’s prior, Christian de Chergé, was always object of some mystery.  The official version, that the monks had been kidnapped and then assassinated by Algeria’s most notorious armed Islamist Emir, Djamel Zitouni, always suffered from some obscurantism. This past week, revelations by a French general, Francois Buchwalter, that the monks had been kidnapped by the Islamists but killed inadvertently in an ambush by the Algerian army, has re-stirred the mystery and ill.  Sarkozy was forced to speak about it in Italy at the G8, calling for the “truth” of the matter in a statement that seemed to hold both a veiled accusal towards the Algerian government, adding more disequilibrium to that delicate rapport, and a reminder to the French and Algerian public of the original accusals of complicity or simple botchedness of the event by the French security forces. If the Algerian Army was able to locate the monks, and kill them, even inadvertently, at a time when French forces were working hand in hand with them, then it would seem to imply a gross sin of incompetence for the French. If the darker accusals turn out to be true, that the Algerian Army, and not the Islamists, had orchestrated the kidnapping and assasinations, then that puts the French secret services in a much deeper mire. The monks testimony to friendship, over-violence and beyond religious tradition, which seems to have been very inconvenient for all the governments and armed forces involved, remains hidden between the accusals.

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2 thoughts on “Monks of Tibhirine

  1. PRESS RELEASE
    Paris, March 23, 2009

    – Criminal Court Referral –
    Jean-Baptiste Rivoire Indicted for
    Premeditated Voluntary Violence – First Hearing at Paris Court of Justice – October 1st, 2009

    Five years after the death of grand reporter Didier Contant, on February 5, the Parisian judge, Patrick Ramaël, who has been investigating into the circumstances of his death, ordered the indictment of journalist Jean-Baptiste RIVOIRE before the Correctional Court of Paris for premeditated voluntary violence.
    This quarrel between journalists have thus far not attracted the attention it deserves; yet this strange case goes far beyond a mere professional rivalry:
    Rivoire and Contant were both investigating into the the death in 1996 of the Monks of Tibhirine.

    In January 2004, Didier Contant, who had published a first article in Le Figaro Magazine, was preparing to publish a new article that would have totally contradicted the thesis of Rivoire.

    During his last investigation, the reporter had found new witnesses stating that the monks had been killed by the GIA, and he had gathered evidence casting doubts on the credibility of Abdelkader Tigha. However, the investigation of Rivoire relied heavily on the statements of the latter, a sub-officer deserter from the Algerian army, who accused the army of being responsible for the murder of the Tibhirine monks.

    The revelations of Tigha have been widely exploited by a number of people with keen interest in the situation in Algeria and who have been accusing the Algerian government for several years without qualification of manipulating Islamist terrorism.

    With the intention of preventing any further publication by his colleague, Jean-Baptiste Rivoire contacted several Parisian editorial offices invoking reliable sources to accuse Didier Contant of being an Algerian and French secret service agent.

    Several journalists heard by the judge Ramaël confirmed having witnessed Rivoire’s accusations, as well as the serious nature of such a foil, which inevitably condemns the targeted person to a total loss of credibility and to his professional death…

    Didier Contant not bear to be slandered and attacked in his professional integrity in this way.

    Four years ago, Rina Sherman, Contant’s companion, filed a criminal suit. She has since published her own investigation in a book entitled “The Eighth Death of Tibhirine”* as well as in a film, “Paris of my exiles.”

    The inquiry has now fully confirmed the allegations against Jean-Baptiste Rivoire.

    A reporter voluntarily sets out to manipulate information, creates a vile calumny, diffuses it in professional circles where no-one bothers to cross-check his information, the victim pays the price… That was the Contant case.

    With this referral to the criminal court, one can henceforth refer to the Rivoire case.

    – Éditions Tatamis, Paris, 2007

    – Lazhari Labter Éditions & Le soir d’Algérie, Alger, 2007

    Le huitième mort de Tibhirine will be published in Arab in 2009 by Lazhari Labter Éditions in Algiers.

    Paris of My Exiles

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