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Algerian diplomat accused in 1987 slaying in Paris

A French court has accused a top Algerian diplomat of complicity in the 1987 killing of a dissident on Paris' Left Bank, prompting sharp words from Algeria's government Thursday.

Ali Mecili, a lawyer active in Algeria's human rights movement, was killed by three gunshots in the foyer of his Paris apartment, and colleagues at the time accused the Algerian government of involvement.

This August, more than 20 years after the killing, Algerian diplomat Mohamed Ziane Hasseni was arrested at an airport in the French port city of Marseille, based on an international arrest warrant issued by a French judge.

A Paris court confirmed Tuesday that preliminary charges have been filed against Hasseni, the chief of protocol at Algeria's Foreign Ministry. Hasseni is no longer in custody but he is under judicial supervision and barred from leaving France.

The next day, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci paid an urgent visit to France to express Algeria's “disapproval” and “deep preoccupation” over the charges.

Algeria's foreign minister pressed his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner to make sure French authorities “take all necessary measures to settle this issue rapidly,” the Algerian Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued to The Associated Press.

Algeria “awaits a just verdict that will confirm the evident innocence of a high-ranking civil servant (who has been) unfairly questioned,” the ministry said.

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday's meeting but would not comment on what was said.

French press reports have quoted Hasseni's lawyer as saying the diplomat denies any involvement in the killing, and that the French judiciary confused him with somebody else of the same name.

Preliminary charges under French law give the judge more time to investigate and determine whether to send the case to trial.

The slain lawyer, Mecili, was imprisoned in Algeria in the 1960s but later released, and moved to France, where he studied law and became a French citizen.

Mecili's wife, Anne, wrote an open letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week saying, “I want to believe that justice will be rendered to Ali Mecili.”

She wrote that the chief suspect in her husband's death was arrested soon after the slaying but was sent immediately to Algeria because he was a top Algerian military security agent.

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