A trial about the murder of the singer Lounès Matoub on 25 June 1998 is scheduled to open on 18 July 2011 in the criminal court in Tizi Ouzou.
Lounès Matoub (often credited as Matoub Lounès in French sources) was one of the most well-known Berber singers in Algeria when he was murdered at the age of 42 on 25 June 1998 by an armed group of men at a place called Bouinan Tala, five kilometres from the city of Tizi Ouzou, on the road to Beni Douala in the eastern part Algeria.
His death resulted in rioting and demonstrations, because he had been a prominent advocate of the Berber cause and of secularism in Algeria throughout his life. Still today, he is revered as a hero and martyr in Kabylie, but reviled by the majority of the Arab population in Algeria for his blasphemous songs and his militant advocacy of Berber rights.
12 years in prison Two men who are suspected to have been involved in the ambush of the singer are charged with “membership of an armed terrorist group”, “the spreading of terror and insecurity among the population” and “complicity in a murder and premeditated ambush”.
The two accused, Malik Chenoui and Abdelhakim Medjnoun Chenoui, have spent the last 12 years in prison. Abdelhakim Medjnoun Chenoui is reported to have been on at least seven hunger strikes in demand of a trial. Their trial was posponed first time in 2000 and then again in 2008 at the request of the family Matoub who expressed doubts about the conduct of the previous investigation and demanded further investigation, supported by a list of 50 people who they said should be called to audition. According to a judicial source, this new investigation was closed on 16 June 2011.
Islamic group – or state authorities? The two men stand accused of having participated in the attack together with a group of ten people, eight of which are on the run or were killed by security forces. The widow of the singer, Nadia Matoub, says the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) is responsible for the killing. In May 1999, a leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) Hassan Hattab claimed responsibility for the assassination. The human rights organisation Algeria-Watch reported in 2001 that evidence had surfaced that pointed to the involvement of highly influential personalities, including officers of the military security.
Listen to Lounès Matoub on last.fm
How Matoub Lounès was killed
Below are excerpts of an article which was published in Le Matin on 25 june 2011. The article describes in detail how the singer was assasinated.
It was 25 June 1998. The summer heat of Kabylia beat down. Matoub Lounès had just returned from France, happy as ever to have completed an album, the most advanced and most comprehensive in his career so far. It was to be published in a few days. He came to see his wife Nadia, who could not get a visa for France. (…)
“Just after the intersection of the two-lane road, we saw a tractor and perhaps two or three cars, and after that, nothing. Not a single vehicle. Strange, because at lunch time there is always traffic on this road, the main road connecting Tizi Ouzou to Taourirt Moussa. We did not think one second that this silence could be a sign of something suspicious. Then, suddenly, a strange noise, like a muffled backfire, mingled with the melody of Matoub Lounès’ song ‘Open Letter’ which was playing in the car,” says his wife. (…)
“I realized that they were shooting at us from both sides of the road. I picked up the Kalashnikov and at the same time, I discovered that my face was bleeding.”
The car was sprayed with bullets from automatic weapons. Lounès tried to accelerate to escape the gunfire…”