France expels high-profile terror convict to Algeria

July 17, 2018

PARIS (AP) — An Algerian-born man twice convicted in France on terror charges and for years a high-profile figure in the underground world of terrorism has been expelled to stand trial in his homeland.

Djamel Beghal was expelled by France on Monday, ending years of wrangling over his fate, Algeria’s official APS news agency reported.

There was no official confirmation by France on his expulsion, including by the Foreign Ministry which reportedly negotiated for weeks with Algeria to take in Beghal once his second prison term had ended. APS then reported that Beghal was back in Algeria to stand trial for a 2003 conviction in absentia there.

Beghal’s name has emerged in numerous terror cases over the years, linked to top officials of al-Qaida and with an array of European contacts, making him a symbol of globe-spanning terrorism. Stripped of his French nationality a decade ago, Beghal had nowhere to go but Algeria.

Were he to have remained in France, Beghal, now 52, would likely have to have been placed under house arrest in a town somewhere in the French provinces. He already had been under house arrest between two convictions.

Beghal was linked to the two men behind the deadly January 2015 attacks on a French newsroom in Paris and a Paris Kosher grocery store. Whether he was the mentor of Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, as the French media has widely reported, was unclear. However, he was seen in a photo with a man identified as Coulibaly who visited Beghal when the latter was under house arrest in central France.

A French court convicted Beghal in 2005 in a U.S. Embassy attack plot allegedly fomented by al-Qaida, and in 2010 for his role in a scheme to help an inmate sentenced to life in prison in a 1995 Paris attack escape. The attack was one of a series by cohorts in France of Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group, the bloodiest group in an insurgency that racked the North African nation throughout the 1990s and beyond.

An Algerian court convicted Beghal in absentia in 2003 for belonging to a terrorist group and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

At one point, Algeria had sought to have Beghal retried on those charges in France, but the French didn’t respond to the demand, APS said.