French man jailed in Algeria for ‘debauchery’

An Algerian court jailed a French businessman and four Algerians on Friday on charges including rape, running a pornography ring and inciting debauchery, in a case that had gripped the country.

The main suspect, Jean-Michel Baroche, 67, who was imprisoned last year along with four others, was handed a seven year sentence and a 200,000 dinar ($2,500) fine after he was found guilty of rape and forced abortions.

His business associate and driver, Reda Briki, got a six year sentence, while Saadni Abdenacer, the former vice president of Annaba municipality where the trial took place, was given four years.

Two others, a gynaecologist and a communications officer in the same region, were both jailed for a year and another three Algerians, who had been released on bail, were acquitted.

Baroche set up a modelling agency, Glamour Arabian Talent, in the northeastern town of Annaba, after leaving Tunisia in the wake of the January 2011 uprising, where he claimed to have set up a luxury car rental agency and managed hotels.

The Algerian press reported that he took would-be models to a luxury villa where he held sex parties that were filmed and the videos sold on the Internet.

He was charged after a young woman accused him of rape.

The accused were tried on 11 separate charges, including indecent assault, producing and publishing pornography, inciting debauchery and possession of drugs.

The prosecution had sought 10 year jail sentences for Baroche, Reda and Abdenacer, and five years for the local government official for complicity.

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Frenchman fined for pillaging ancient sites

A 60-year French champagne producer received a six-month suspended sentence and a €200,000 ($270,000) fine on Friday for stealing ancient objects from archaeological digs and selling them on.

Frenchman fined for pillaging ancient sites
Roman coins. File photo: AFP

French police stopped the man and his wife for a routine traffic check two years ago and found 112 Roman coins in the car.

His wife was fined €3,500 for complicity.

Between 2009 and 2012, the man made dozens of trips to archaeological digs in the region just east of Paris.

During his trial, he said he thought he was acting within the law.

"I looked around on the ground. The objects were there. All I had to do was pick them up," he said.

When police searched his house, they found a veritable museum of objects, ranging from ancient coins and pottery pieces to rings and necklaces.

The court convicted the man, who has not been named, of conducting archaeological digs without permission, selling the proceeds, and illegal possession of archaeological objects.

His ill-gotten gains were ordered returned to the state.

His lawyer, Denis Tailly-Eschenlohr, said the fine was "extremely heavy and totally disproportionate", adding that his client would lodge an appeal.