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Macron admits French guilt in torturing activist in Algeria war

Screengrab, France 24 | Anti-colonialist activist Maurice Audin disappeared in 1957 after being arrested at his home in Algiers.

President Emmanuel Macron officially acknowledged on Thursday that the French state was responsible for the disappearance of Maurice Audin, an anti-colonial activist who was arrested during the 1957 Battle of Algiers and never seen again.


Macron met Audin’s widow and offered an official acknowledgement that the communist mathematician and pro-Algerian independence campaigner was tortured and then executed, or tortured to death, by soldiers who abducted him from his home in Algiers on June 11, 1957, and that the torture “stemmed from a system instigated while Algeria was part of France”, according to the Élysée Palace.

The French president apologised to Josette Audin for the French state’s responsibility for her husband’s death, telling her that “you have never given up your efforts to have the truth recognised".

“I never thought this day would come,” she said.

Audin disappeared during the 1956-57 Battle of Algiers, in which the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) waged a series of guerilla attacks on French soldiers and civilians in Algiers, to which the French military responded with increasingly violent reprisals, including execution and forced disappearances.

The six-year Algerian War only ended when France granted the country independence in 1962.

'The state is responsible,' says Maurice Audin's son

>> Watch: The Maurice Audin case, a 60-year battle for truth

“Audin was arrested at his house by soldiers who took him to the El Biar detention centre, who then interrogated and tortured him,” said Sylvie Thénault, a historian specialising in the Algerian War of Independence, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “Those are the facts that have been established.”

“From the moment that Aubin stepped into the detention centre, there was no further trace of him except for the witness statement by Henri Alleg [a communist anti-colonial activist detained the day after Audin], who said that he saw Audin and noticed that he had been tortured,” Thénault continued.

French soldiers subsequently told Audin’s wife that he had escaped. Convinced that they had killed him, she filed a lawsuit against the French state for complicity in his murder later in 1957, while a committee was formed in support of her claim.

No progress was made until 2014, when then president François Hollande officially declared that Audin “died in detention”. But what was “lacking” in Hollande’s statement was an “admission that Audin died because of the torture he was subjected to while in the hands of the military”, said Thénault.

'A sign that something has changed in French politics'

Macron’s declaration marks “not a moment of accusation but a moment of truth", said Cédric Villani, a mathematician and lawmaker for Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) party, who has campaigned on behalf of Audin’s family for an admission of the French state’s responsibility, in an interview with radio station France Inter.

The president’s statement shows that “the government's lie that had persisted for 61 years has been exposed”, said Pierre Laurent, leader of the French Communist Party. “This is a great moment for Josette Audin and her family, for the PCF [Communist Party] that gave so much in the anti-colonial struggle, and all the anti-colonialist activists,” he wrote on Twitter.

Macron's announcement 'is the first step'

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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