Saturday, March 15, 2014

Scientist claims his father didn't shoot dead his own boss and should never have been imprisoned for 20 years on the infamous Devil's Island

A British-based scientist is seeking a pardon for his late father who spent 20 years imprisoned on infamous Devil’s Island for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

Bashir Saoudi, who has lived in Britain since his teens, said his father Kaci died in 1990 with a murder conviction still to his name, and wants the French government to overturn it.

Mr Saoudi was imprisoned in 1933 in a French penal colony on the notorious island, off the coast of South America, and stayed until the prison was closed in 1953.

The Algerian-born man was thrown behind bars alongside his two cousins after he was accused of shooting dead his own boss.

In fact one of his cousins was guilty of the crime - but Mr Saoudi refused to tell the truth because he didn’t want to see one of his own family face the guillotine.

As a result of his silence he was condemned to incarceration and spent 20 years battling starvation, yellow fever and hard labour before he was freed in 1953 when the French were forced to close the prison.

He returned to Algeria and held a respected position in public office before dying at the age of 83 in 1990.

His son, aged 58, has now called for him to be officially pardoned after vowing to prevent his father’s name going down in history as a convicted killer.

Mr Saoudi Jnr, a computer scientists from Cambridge, has provided all the information for a book about his father written by Scottish crime writer Michael J Malone called The Guillotine Choice.

He said: 'My father did not want to point the finger at his cousin. 'In those days the French would have chopped off his cousin’s head, and my father could not stand that. He did not want his cousin guillotined so he kept quiet.

'My father was an incredible man and he is an inspiration to all of us - he managed to survive the most unimaginably horrific conditions. 'Not only did he survive, but he kept his dignity, and I am so proud of him for this.

'But he should never have been convicted in the first place. The French government convicted my father purely because he would not reveal who the real guilty man was.

'The French had no proof whatsoever that he was guilty and this is a terrible miscarriage of justice.

'In honour of my father’s name, I am now asking that the French government does the right thing and overturns his conviction, preferably while my mother is still alive. 'He was innocent, and I want to get the French people to reconsider.'

Mr Saoudi had the number 51240 tattooed on his arm and survived an horrific transportation on a packed prison ship before arriving on Devil’s Island off French Guiana.

France imprisoned more than 80,000 men there and the odds of survival were massively stacked against them.

The island prison was the setting for the book Papillon by Henri Charrière. It is, supposedly, a true account of how he and a friend escaped the prison by jumping into the sea holding sacks of coconuts for floatation.

Mr Saoudi Jnr added: 'Devil’s Island is Hell on Earth. It’s a place where 90 per cent of prisoners died in their first year.

'They were thrown in the jungle to make roads, and they worked under some incredible conditions. If they weren’t killed by yellow fever, they were killed by starvation.

'There were many ways you could die, and only the very, very strongest survived. The reason why he survived is because he was young, and he was sharp.

'He survived because he was destined to survive. I really believe that, because to come back from yellow fever is not easy.'

Mr Saoudi Jnr arrived in England from Algeria when he was just 17 and began to study computer science in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. He married here and had three children before divorcing and moving to Scotland.

Ten years ago Michael J Malone came to his café in the Scottish town of Ayr and snapped up an opportunity to pitch his father’s story.

The novel, called The Guillotine Choice, will be published on 13 March.

Original report here




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