By Husamettin Islam
Paris is dragging its feet on the issue of compensation owed to victims of Algeria’s war of independence, Ahmed Doha, a veteran of the war, said Saturday.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Doha, 85, recalled his wartime experiences and shared his views on France's recent decision to pay compensation to Algerian war victims.
Like many other Algerians, Doha joined the struggle for national independence in 1955.
In 1958, Doha recalled, he was taken into custody by French colonialist forces and subjected to torture.
He was also slapped with a death sentence, but this was later commuted to life in prison.
"I was finally released in April of 1962, only one month before we gained our independence," he said.
Although France's decision to compensate victims of the war was a “positive step”, it did not go far enough, according to Doha.
"Compensation must also apply to Algerians who suffered as a result of French nuclear weapons tests in the Sahara Desert and to the families of those who went missing during the war,” he said.
Noting the vast numbers of war victims, Doha asserted: "France is stalling in order to pay less compensation.”
“Because so many Algerians went missing or were subject to torture during the war, compensation costs will be enormous -- hence, France’s foot-dragging policy," he said.
Doha said France must return thousands of artifacts, books and map and skulls of resistance fighters taken by French forces when they left Algeria.
He also called for compensating victims of French nuclear tests in Reggane district in south-western Algeria in the early 1960s.
According to French media, there are around 18,000 skulls of Algerian resistance fighters in the Museum of Mankind (Musée de l'Homme) in Paris.
While French authorities admit that they had conducted 13 nuclear tests in Algeria, Algerian officials put the number at 57.
Last month, the French Constitutional Court, which looked into a lawsuit filed by an Algerian national who was 8 years-old during Algeria’s war of independence and was subjected to torture, ruled that Algerians who had been injured or suffered disability during France’s colonial rule have the right to get compensation.
More than one million people are estimated to have been killed during the Algerian fight for liberation from French colonial rule.
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara