3 sentenced to prison over Algeria concert stampede deaths

The stadium in Algiers where at least five people were killed in a stampede before a concert by Algerian rap star Abderraouf Derradji on August 22, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 29 November 2019

3 sentenced to prison over Algeria concert stampede deaths

  • Five people aged between 13 and 22 were killed and more than 80 injured on August 22
  • The former head of Algeria’s public body for organizing concerts was sentenced to six months in prison

ALGIERS: An Algerian court has handed three people prison sentences for “negligence” over a deadly stampede at an August concert, a judicial source told AFP Thursday.
Five people aged between 13 and 22 were killed and more than 80 injured on August 22 when fans thronged an entrance of a stadium in Algiers where France-based rapper Soolking was performing.
Samy Benchikh, the former head of Algeria’s public body for organizing concerts, was sentenced to six months in prison, with three months suspended, a judicial source said on condition of anonymity.
The manager of a ticket company was handed six months in jail with four months suspended, and the same sentence was handed to the head of the company handling security at the event.
All three were charged with “negligence” after the court dropped manslaughter charges, the judicial source added.
Eleven security guards also on trial were released.
The incident forced culture minister Meriem Merdaci to resign and led to the sacking of Benchikh and Algeria’s police chief, Abdelkader Kara Bouhadba.
Soolking, 29, is a major star in Algeria, and his song “La Liberte” (Freedom) became a mainstay of the anti-government protest movement that has swept Algeria since February.
The choice of the August-20 stadium, one of the country’s oldest, to host the rapper’s sole planned concert in Algeria since his international career took off in 2018, was heavily criticized, in particular by families of the victims.
The day of the concert, large numbers of spectators were still waiting to enter shortly before the show began, and fears of not being able to enter reportedly sparked the stampede.


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”