Quebecer arrested in Algeria | “My husband is in danger”

A Quebecer of Algerian origin is shouting after her husband was arrested a week ago in Algeria while on a plane to Montreal to return home.

Published on February 27th

Alice Girard-Bosse

Alice Girard-Bosse
The press

On January 29, Lazhar Zouaïmia, a Quebecer of Algerian origin, traveled to his home country. The expert technician at Hydro-Québec had gathered his leave to visit his relatives for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

“He spent the entire stay without any history. He reconnected with his family,” said his wife Fatima Benzerara. On February 19, a few hours before returning home, she tried to reach him without success. It was agreed that she would pick up him when he arrived at the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau airport in Montreal.

“I called him dozens of times and he did not answer. He did not fly,” the woman said. She had all sorts of scenarios. “I thought he had been in a car accident or that he had been kidnapped.”

“shocked”

In the hours that followed, she received a call from her in-laws living in Algeria. She learned that her husband had been arrested by plainclothes agents at the airport in Constantine, in the eastern part of the country, and was only allowed to call locally. “He called his brother. He told her he had been arrested and he did not know why. They confiscated all his belongings,” she says.

Mme Benzerara hired a lawyer from Constantine’s bar to find out the reasons for his arrest. A few days later, the news fell: Lazhar Zouaïmia is formally accused of having supported and supported a terrorist group and of having praised terrorist acts on social networks. He has since been imprisoned in a prison in Constantine.

His wife is in shock. “It’s really incomprehensible,” she said. Her daughter and their loved ones are just as sad.

Not everyone who knows him can understand.

Fatima Benzerara, wife of Lazhar Zouaïmia

Mme Benzerara assures that her spouse has not committed any offense and that he is in no way affiliated with a terrorist group. “We are Canadian citizens. We have been here for over 18 years. We both work for the government. We go back to Algeria every two or three years to see our family. I do not understand why this is happening to us. I understand that. not, ”laments the high school math teacher.

Appeal to the Canadian Government

Mme Benzerara is appealing to the Canadian government to intervene quickly so that her husband returns home as soon as possible. “My husband is in danger. It’s awful,” she said.

For its part, Global Affairs Canada said it had been informed that a Canadian citizen had been detained in Algeria, and said it was still in contact with local authorities to gather further information.

These accusations have no meaning and no basis, she argues.

In recent years, Mr. Zouaïmia like thousands of Algerians in Canada attended rallies for democratic and non-violent change in this North African country, his wife explains.

In February 2019, thousands of Algerians protested against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term and a radical change in the political system that has been in place since the country’s independence in 1962. Many Algerians, including Mr Zouaïmia, regularly gather in the streets of Montreal. . to demand democratization of the country.

Mme Benzerara fears her husband’s involvement may have led to her arrest. “I can not find other reasons that could explain it,” she says.

“A catastrophic situation”

At the beginning of the pandemic, their son Mehdi died, then 21. Mr. Zouaïmia had used his visit to Algeria to inaugurate a fountain he had built in his hometown to honor the memory of his child.

“He was so happy with his trip. We were just waiting to meet everyone,” says Mme Benzerara. Their reunion never took place. “We lost our son not long ago. We barely manage to get our heads above water, and it happens to us. It’s unthinkable.”

Since the arrest, the family has been shaken. “It really is a catastrophic situation,” concludes Mr.me Benzerara.

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