Friday, March 13, 1998 Published at 23:21 GMT
Algeria - a nation growing in fear
Evidence is growing to suggest that the authorities in Algeria are guilty of human rights abuses against its people. BBC Foreign Correspondent Fergeal Keane reports from the capital Algiers to investigate claims involving the murder and disappearance of hundreds of people from the city. Their stories speak of grave torture and abuse.
Suspended above the sea, the glittering lights of Algiers. A city of Mediterranean charm and medieval brutality. In this city, people can vanish into police custody and never be seen again.
"My son voted for The Feast, the Islamic Party, but he didn't create them. When I went to look for him with my wife, the police said they knew nothing about him. They arrested me, they tortured me and they raped my wife."
The disappeared come from all walks of life and human rights groups say they number in their hundreds. To be a human rights lawyer in this climate takes considerable courage as Tahri Mohammed knows only too well.
"Yes, it's true. Most of them if not all, are tortured and in some cases, the torture is taken too far and the people die.
"They stripped my clothes off and beat me, over and over. Then they made me sit on a bottle. It was forced into me and I began to bleed. They put electric shocks through my genitals. Two years on, I can still feel the pain of that."
The government does have its own human rights organisation, and its director rejects claims of widespread state abuses.
This is a place where journalism is a constant battle to separate truth from lies, fact from unsubstantiated allegation. But there is now a growing body of evidence to suggest that the government has been guilty of brutal abuses of human rights in its attempt to destroy the Islamic extremists.
Until now, the West has paid little attention to these abuses. Pressure is growing into an inquiry into what is happening here.
"I just want to know if my son is alive or dead," says Ali, "and if he is dead, just tell me where he is so I can go and see him."
High on the slopes above Algiers, a grand monument celebrates Algeria's freedom from French rule. But the truth is that three decades after independence, Algeria has become a state of fear.