Algiers – The son of a French anti-imperialist tortured and killed by the French army during Algeria’s war of independence has said he cannot forgive and that the “truth” is more important than any apologies offered by Paris for such crimes.
Maurice Audin, a mathematician and communist who supported Algeria’s struggle for self-rule, was killed in 1957, three years into a bitter eight-year war that finally brought an end to French colonial control. His body has never been found.
President Emmanuel Macron in 2018 acknowledged in the name of the French state that Audin had “died under torture stemming from the system instigated while Algeria was part of France”, and asked his widow for forgiveness.
But Audin’s son Pierre, who was visiting the country for the first time on his new Algerian passport, to attend the unveiling on Sunday of a bust of his father, said France needed to reveal the whole range of its crimes during the colonial era.
“There were many crimes, misdeeds committed by France against Algeria and Algerians,” he told AFP.
“What’s important is to tell the truth. Not to say, ‘I wash my hands of it, I’ve asked for forgiveness’. There can be no forgiveness – it was unforgivable.”
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He was just a month and a half old when his father was killed, and has waited much of his life for the crime to be recognised.
“When the president visited my mother (to apologise) I was 61 and already retired… a lifetime had passed,” he said.
The Algerian struggle for independence pitted armed groups mostly made up of Muslims against French armed forces as well as the far-right Secret Armed Organisation (OAS).
But some Europeans in both countries, notably communists including Audin, supported independence.
Pierre Audin said he had “only really felt the need” to have an Algerian passport after Macron’s apology.
He added that he hopes the document will help him to find the remains of his father, which were never recovered.
“A few days before my mother died, I promised her I would continue looking for the remains,” he said.
Macron has since acknowledged the French army was behind the death of the nationalist lawyer Ali Boumendjel and returned the skulls of 19th century Algerian resistance fighters, as well as opening French state archives on the Algerian war.
But memories of the colonial period continue to provoke recurring diplomatic spats between Paris and Algiers, which is preparing to mark 60 years of independence on July 5.
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