Serkadji Prison

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Serkadji Prison
Location Algiers, Algeria
Status former prison, future national museum
Opened 1857
Closed 2014

Serkadji Prison, formerly Barberousse Prison, is a high-security prison in Algiers, Algeria; in 1995, about two-thirds of the 1,500 prisoners detained there have been accused or convicted of terrorism.


The Barberousse Prison was constructed during the period of French rule, being built on the site of a former Turkish fortification located above the Casbah of Algiers. During the Algerian War of 1954-62 several hundred FLN activists and fighters were imprisoned there and 58 were executed by guillotine in the main courtyard. Following Algerian independence the prison was renamed as the Serkadji Prison and converted to a historical museum. However under President Houari Boumediène the building resumed its role as a prison for political prisoners plus convicted criminals.


A prison mutiny took place between 21 and 23 February 1995 at Serkadji Prison. The catalyst to the mutiny was the escape of 4 prisoners aided by a guard. During the escape attempt four guards and one prisoner were killed. On the morning of 21 February, a small group attempted to escape, having been given 4 guns and 3 grenades by a recently appointed prison guard, Hamid Mebarki. After killing 4 prison guards, they began opening cell doors, and the prisoners quickly started a mutiny. They sought to negotiate with the authorities for guarantees of the safety of those prisoners who had not been party to the killing of the guards; the authorities considered negotiation inappropriate, and ordered them back to their cells. At mid-afternoon, the security forces stormed the prison; shooting and grenades continued until about 11 am the next day. Some human rights groups cited claims that the government had executed prisoners after resistance stopped without due process and shot the wounded.

After the failed breakout security forces killed ninety-six prisoners (according to official figures; other sources claimed up to 110) while trying to suppress the resulting mutiny.

An inquiry into the incident was conducted in March by an official human rights organization, the Observatoire National des Droits de l'Homme, which supported the Minister of Justice's account. Eight people were later sentenced to death for their parts in the escape attempt.

Moroccans detained[edit]

Three Moroccans belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were arrested in early June 2008, and transferred to Serkadji prison to await trial. Considered foreign elements in security jargon, it was unclear if they would be tried in Morocco or Algeria. Algerian security forces arrested the Salafists after they were successful in penetrating the western borders of Algeria. The three attested to carrying arms against the United States and advocating the overthrow of the pro U.S. monarchy in Morocco.[1]


  1. ^ Three Moroccans belonging to Al-Qaeda referred to Serkadji prison, El Khabar, 18 June 2008, internet article.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°47′00″N 3°03′37″E / 36.7833°N 3.0603°E / 36.7833; 3.0603