'They implemented French ambassador's black-out'
The general put forward a theory that has also been advanced by former Algerian military personnel: once the Algerian army discovered its appalling error, it organised a sordid cover-up by decapitating the monks in order to steer suspicion towards the Islamist rebels. The bodies were then disposed of they have never been found in order to erase all forensic evidence, such as the numerous bullet wounds, that could implicate the army.
Furthermore, if the general is to be believed, all this was known to the French authorities. His last two answers to the judge are as short as they are unambiguous: Trévidic asked him:
"As the defence attaché, did you report back, in writing, on what you had learned about the Tibhirine monks from your friend the businessman?"
"Yes." Buchwalter answered.
"Was this report sent to the same authorities as usual?" Trévidic then asked.
"Yes. But there was no follow-up. They implemented the black-out requested by the ambassador," the general replied.
Patrick Baudoin, lawyer for the plaintiffs in the civil suit, said the officer's revelations were "extremely" credible. "They highlight the lies of the Algerian authorities but also the complicit silence of the French state," he said.
The investigation continues and Mediapart has since published secret French intelligence documents that detail the ambivalent role of Algerian intelligence during the kidnap crisis, which we present in the second of this two-part report.
English version: Patricia Brett