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Doctor jailed for selling babies to France

A doctor from Algeria was sentenced to 12 years behind bars for his role in kidnapping Algerian children born to single mothers and putting them up for sale in France.

Doctor jailed for selling babies to France
Dr Khelifa Hanouti handed a 12 year jail sentence for kidnapping babies and selling them for adoption in France. Photo: X1klima/flickr

An Algiers criminal court has sentenced to 12 years in jail a doctor accused of kidnapping Algerian children born to single mothers and selling them for adoption in France.

Khelifa Hanouti, accused of illegally shipping the children abroad with the help of a notary, must also pay a fine of a million dinars (€10,000), the court ruled late on Monday.

Six French suspects of Algerian origin living in the French city of Saint-Etienne were sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison plus a fine of €20,000 each.

A notary accused of writing "disclaimer documents" signed by single mothers was sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 10,000 euros.

Four defendants were sentenced to three years suspended while another was acquitted.

The prosecution had requested a 20-year jail sentence and a fine of five million dinars (50,000 euros) for the main suspect Hanouti.

It had also demanded 10-year sentences for each of the remaining 12 suspects in the case, in which nine children of single mothers were allegedly kidnapped and sent to Saint-Etienne.

Seven of the accused appeared in court on Monday but none of the six French suspects of Algerian origin were present.

The case came to light in 2009 and according to the indictment it concerns nine children born to single mothers, sent to Saint-Etienne, where they were adopted for a fee.

The case first came to light when a young woman died in 2009 during an abortion at a clinic in the Algiers suburb of Ain Taya run by Hanouti, and an investigation was launched.

The lawyer said his client had initially been prosecuted for performing illegal abortions but this charge was finally dropped.

Hanouti had been convicted on the same charge in 2002, and handed a two-year jail sentence, of which he served nine months before being released.

Abortion is a crime in Algeria and women patients risk two years in prison, while doctors can be jailed for up to five.

One of the other suspects, Boualem Ibari, who lives in Saint-Etienne, "adopted two boys from the Ain Taya nursery, according to Algerian procedures," the lawyer said.

"He was even authorised by the court of Rouiba (near Ain Taya) to change their names and take them out of Algeria on his passport," he added.

Hamid Touliba, another lawyer for Hanouti, said "all the adoptions in this case took place according to the law, with authentic documents, and none of the biological mothers filing a complaint."

The charges of those on trial include criminal conspiracy, transporting children with premeditation, forgery and impersonation.

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FILM

‘A Prophet’ creator takes on France’s war in Algeria

One of France's most celebrated screenwriters is taking on its biggest taboo, the bloody conflict in Algeria, in a new war film.

'A Prophet' creator takes on France's war in Algeria
French scriptwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri. Photo: Joël Saget / AFP
Abdel Raouf Dafri told AFP that he had been itching for years to broach the delicate subject. The writer of the Oscar-nominated “A Prophet”, and the Emmy-winning television series “Braquo”, has Algerian roots but was born in the French port of Marseille, where many former French “pied noir” colonists who were forced to flee Algeria settled.
 
The film's title “May an impure blood…” (Qu'un sang impur…) is plucked from the most controversial line in the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise”, which ends “…water our fields”.
 
Dafri cleverly turns it around to refer to “the blood of the colonised” who suffered under the French, which “just goes to show how universal our national anthem is”, he argued.
 
His story, however, centres on a group of French conscript soldiers sent on a “grotesque mission that none of them want to go on.
 
“Like a lot of military operations, it serves little or no purpose,” said Dafri, who also scripted the acclaimed “Mesrine” gangster films.
 
“When you make a film about World War II, you know who the good guys are,” the writer said. “The war in Algeria is more complicated, because nobody was nice.”
 
Torture
 
The film opens with a brutal interrogation of three Algerian villagers — the sort of violent questioning that the founder of France's far-right National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, said he proudly took part in.
 
It was only last year that the French government finally acknowledged that these interrogations were part of an official system of routine torture during the bloody seven-year war, before Algeria declared independence from France in 1962.
 
“All the violence which I show in the film happened in reality,” Dafri insisted.
 
Yet the film's lead character — a tough non-commissioned officer who has survived France's earlier colonial defeat in Indochina — is inspired by the rather more sympathetic figure of Roger Vandenberghe.
 
Vandenberghe, a tragic and highly decorated hero of that earlier conflict, died aged 24 in Vietnam.
 
 “I wanted a hero, but not a Rambo,” the first-time director said. “A man who was both fragile deep down but who was also capable of cruelty.”
 
With France and Algeria still unable to agree on a death toll more than half a century after the war ended, Dafri insisted that he wanted “to be as honest and as just as possible”.
 
After much research, he borrowed a phrase from the ethnologist Germaine Tillion as his guiding light. Tillion was a French resistance hero and concentration camp survivor who secretly met Algerian guerrilla leaders in a bid to end the bloodshed. She tried to win hearts and minds as the military stepped up their repression.
 
French-Algerian identity
 
“When in 1828 our ancestors crossed the sea to seek revenge for a slap with a fly-whisk, Algeria was an archaic country, and France was too,” Tillion wrote.
 
The quotation refers to how France used a clash between the country's former Ottoman ruler Hussein Dey and the French consul in Algiers as a pretext to invade the country.
 
Tillion tried to bring health services and education to Algeria's “pauperised” indigenous population as the war raged. She was among the first to condemn the systematic torture of suspects.
 
To understand the Algerian war, “you have to go back to the beginnings of the history of France and its principal colony”, Dafri said.
 
But writing the film he also had to confront his own personal history and identity as the French-born son of Algerian emigrants.
 
“I wanted to understand why my parents brought me into the world in France in 1963” — a year after the war ended — “when their own country had just been liberated from its oppressors.”
 
Dafri said he is dedicating the film, which will be released later this year, both to the Algerian people and to the young French conscripts who were forced to serve there, “thrown into a disaster” that was not of their own making.
 
According to the French historian Benjamin Stora, conscripts made up two-thirds of the 23,000 French soldiers killed in Algeria. Estimates of the number of Algerians who died ranges from around one million to between 300,000 and 400,000, three percent of the local population at the time.
 
Dafri is less forgiving of those in power. “The Algerian people suffered from colonisation and then independence led by corrupt men who are still in power,” he said.
 
“I don't want people to say that I have taken sides” when they see the movie, Dafri said. “I do not have a side to take: France is my country.”
 
By AFP's Laurence Thomann and Fiachra Gibbons