The trial of 10 people charged in connection with the murder two years ago of star Berber singer Lounes Matoub began Wednesday in eastern Algeria but was swiftly adjourned.
The hearing was held in the chief town of the Kabylie region, Tizi Ouzou, where Matoub is considered a folk-hero for his stance against the authorities in Algiers as well as his opposition to Muslim fundamentalists.
The court indefinitely adjourned the trial at the request both of lawyers for the only two suspects be present -- eight others are in hiding and being tried in their absence -- and of the Lounes Matoub Foundation.
Authorities have blamed the June 25, 1998, murder on the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which had kidnapped Matoub in September 1994.
Matoub was gunned down on the street in Taourirt Moussa, his home village in the mainly Berber Kabylie region, and his wife and two of her sisters were wounded in the attack.
The suspects, Aldelhakim Chenoui and Malik Medjnoun with eight absentees, are charged with murder, attempted murder, complicity in murder and belonging to a terrorist group.
A dissident GIA group claimed responsibility for the killing days after it took place, but the Lounes Matoub Foundation, chaired by his sister Malika, has expressed doubts that the fundamentalists were responsible.
Matoub was an outspoken opponent of central authority and sponsored the culture and language of the Berbers, the indigenous population of Algeria before the dominant Arabs arrived, as well as denouncing fundamentalists.
His killing sparked bloody riots in the Kabylie region.
Matoub's sister said that the murder is still "shady in several respects."
The trial began amid a brutal upsurge in violence by armed Muslim fundamentalists, who have killed more than 270 people since the start late last month of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan -- TIZI OUZOU (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)