Massinissa Guermah

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Massinissa Guermah (1983, in Beni Douala, Tizi Ouzou Province – 20 April 2001) was an 18-year-old Kabyle (Berber) high school student arrested by Algerian gendarmes on 18 April 2001. In circumstances still not clear, he received gunshot wounds inside the gendarmerie. The same day, three college students were arbitrarily arrested in the town of Amizour (Béjaïa). Massinissa later died of his wounds in the Mustapha Hospital on 20 April 2001.

On 22 April 2001, the commander of La Gendarmerie Nationale released a statement in which he said that Massinissa Guermah had been arrested after aggressive behaviour following a theft. The Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni described Guermah as a "twenty-six year old delinquent." In response to the Interior Minister's statement, Massinissa's parents sent the national press a school report stating that the Massinissa was indeed an eighteen-year-old school student.

Seven days after Massinissa's death the military authorities explained how it had occurred. Constable Mestari Merabet was referred to the Blida Military Tribunai for "breach of instructions and manslaughter." But the incident was described as an accident caused when Merabet accidentally fired his gun. However, according to Koceila Merakeb who was arrested with Massinissa one round of bullets was fired in the waiting room, two bullets ricocheted off the floor and the third landed at the feet of another constable close by. Then Constable Mestari Merabet directed his gun at Massinissa and fired.

Despite this evidence to date no public trial has occurred.

Massinissa's killing caused riots in Kabylie lasting for several months; this series of events is referred to as the Black Spring. The violence was fuelled by an Algerian national campaign to impose Arabic language on its people in place of indigenous languages, including Kabyle.


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