As part of our Human Voices of the War on Terror series, Kamel Daoudi tells us what it’s like to live imprisoned but ‘free’ in France.

I’ve always denied the accusations levelled against me. Now, 15 years after my initial arrest, the authorities are still as dedicated to destroying me and my family, as they were when I was initially arrested.

My name is Kamel Daoudi. I am the eldest of four siblings. I came to France at age 5 and I lived, studied, worked and married here. Although I lived in France for the majority of my life, since 1979, it was only in 2001 that I was granted French citizenship.

I studied IT and Mechanical Engineering. Once I graduated I had difficulties securing a job. People of ethnic minorities experience this all too often in France.

I married for the first time in 1998. My wife was a successful chemist and professor. During this time, I was struggling with questions of identity and belonging while living in France. I began to explore my background and learned that my father and grandfather engaged in the resistance against the French in Algeria. My father was tortured by the French during the occupation and my grandfather was killed by them in a horrifying manner.

These things were always at the back of my mind. France had never attempted to reconcile itself with this barbaric past, and although I was living many decades after these events, the memories were still very powerful and vivid.

During the Military coup in the 1990s I was in Algeria and witnessed how the French-backed military destroyed the nation, and subverted the will of the people.

I left France to learn more about my faith and history

Despite finally landing a stable job at a software company, these questions never allowed me to settle down. I separated from my wife and felt that I must leave France to explore the world and learn more about my faith and my history.

Because of my immigration status I had to leave using forged documents. I accept this may not have been the best decision at the time, but it is one I felt emotionally compelled to do. I left for Pakistan in early 2001. Thereafter I entered Afghanistan and resided in Jalalabad for a few months.

This was a period of relative calm in Afghanistan. I avoided all the civil disputes that were happening. I was only concerned with learning about my faith and understanding other people’s cultures. This trip was very short and by the summer of 2001 I returned to France and resumed my normal life.

It was following the 9/11 attacks when things began to change dramatically. I was made aware that a person with whom I had been acquainted, Djamel Beghal had been arrested and tortured in the UAE. Because of my previous acquaintance with Djamel, I feared that I may also be arrested, so I fled to the UK.

Read more: Rachid Ait el Hadj speaks out against his imminent extradition from France

The French sent out an arrest warrant for my arrest. I thought I would be immune living in the UK as a non-French citizen. However, while I had been travelling my application for French citizenship had been accepted, unbeknown to me.

I was shortly arrested by the British and extradited to France. Ironically during the extradition both the French and the British police assumed they had jurisdiction over me, so I was handcuffed by both at the same time!

There was no judicial process for the extradition. I was arrested and removed from the UK with immediate effect.

I was sent to prison for seven years, then placed under house arrest

While I was held by the French authorities, I was placed under intense pressure to give information on Djamel Beghal. I felt the intention was to somehow extract a confession from me to be used against Beghal in court. Eventually I found myself dragged into the Beghal case. The French anti-terror law is extremely broad and simple association can lead to a conviction.

Following a trial I was convicted of “criminal association in relation to a terrorist undertaking”, an extremely broad charge and one that was heavily criticised by human rights organisations.  

I was sentenced to nine years imprisonment and banned from remaining in France after my release. The sentence was reduced on appeal to six years. I was arrested on 3 October 2001 and released on 28th April 2008.

In total, I was in prison for 6 years and 9 months.  The extra 9 months was due to an altercation I was involved in while in prison during which the prison guards beat me severely.

The story of my release is a strange one. As I left the prison the authorities immediately picked me up again because I had no right to reside in France! I was driven to an immigration centre in preparation for my extradition to Algeria. However, the European Court of Human Rights intervened to halt the extradition until my case was thoroughly reviewed.

This began a new phase of my continued persecution. I was placed under house arrest in an isolated village in rural France. I was told that I could not leave the county and I was required to sign twice a day at the police station.


Kamel Daoudi pictured with his bike that he uses for the daily commutes to sign at the police station.

I was placed in a hotel paid for by the state, however my family had to take the burden of covering all my living and legal costs. Despite my severely restricted circumstances, I managed to get married again and I was blessed with two children, my daughter and then my son.

On the 3rd of December 2009, I was anticipating the final verdict of the ECHR on my case.  During this time my wife was due to have a pregnancy scan. On the spur of the moment, I decided to drive my wife to the hospital. Unfortunately, with no permission to leave the city, I was stopped by the police, arrested and sent to prison for 6 months for violating my conditions.  As a result I missed the birth of my daughter because I was held in prison.

The ECHR decision was finally passed during this period. Thankfully it was in my favour and it blocked the plans for my extradition to Algeria.

I tried to start a new life but France was against me

Following my release I was taken to another distant village in a small county of France. This was over 400km away from the previous village I had resided in. My conditions were extremely restrictive, I had to sign in three times a day at a police station as opposed to two previously. The county was much smaller so I could not travel very far. Working was impossible due to the need to regularly sign at a police station and also due to the racism I experienced in the village.

In September 2011 and after I began to reach out to the media to explain my conditions and the violation of my rights, the authorities decided to move me again.

Ironically the authorities viewed my media campaign as tantamount to an act of war. They further restricted my conditions and now I had to sign in with the police four times a day. Life and any social interaction was made extremely difficult, if not impossible.

I am wholly dependent on my family for all my needs. I’ve tried to work repeatedly but my conditions do not permit it. My family and my young children are forced to live with me in these conditions.

Report: DJAMEL BEGHAL – British and French complicity in torture

After the attacks in France, my personal situation deteriorated. The media have continuously implicated me in these attacks despite me living since 2009 under virtual house arrest. This has increased the hostility towards me from my neighbours and other people in the village.

In the pursuit of some normality, my wife and I bought a house that was in need of extensive repairs. The intention was that this could become a project that we could immerse ourselves in as a family to focus our attention away from the difficulties of life.

However the community I lived in was generally hostile to my family and me. There was a widespread appeal for the far right in the village. I endured a persistent campaign to demonise my family and me by the locals.  This escalated to my neighbours filing a complaint against me with the mayor of the village who summoned me to discuss the concerns raised.

My house arrest is worse than prison and has traumatised my family

France was now in a state of emergency. The French authorities carried out numerous raids across the nation with little need for a justification. I was no exception. During an early morning raid, I was removed from my family home in a rough manner. I asked the police to allow me to say goodbye to my wife, daughter and young son, but they refused. I was relocated again, hundreds of miles away from the previous village. Again the restrictions I had were re-imposed.

Many do not understand what house arrest feels like. Unlike a prison, when you’re living under house arrest, you are your own jail keeper. It’s a vicious  incarceration. The isolation leads you to act in a schizophrenic manner. Your entire existence becomes hollow, without purpose or direction. Your mind is exhausted in finding a way out, only to realise time and again there is none. I live in a state of constant paranoia now.


Kamel Daoudi lives in a remote village in France

My young son has also developed a fear of police because their appearance in our life always meant something bad would happen. During one of the police visits to our home, they confiscated my electronics, including the device my son uses to watch his favourite cartoons. I felt helpless when my son asked me for his device. How could I explain to him that the police who are supposed to protect him have taken it away? On one occasion he spotted an officer from the window and called out for me to say that they are the ones who took my device.

Living under house arrest gives you an illusion of freedom. However you cannot carry out any normal activities. For example I have no social life at all beyond my family. My family themselves cannot have a social life because of our seclusion and because we cannot entertain guests in our home. Your life becomes an extended vacuum, void of humanity and robotic in nature.  The future is impossible to predict or plan.

In prison, I was in solitary confinement for a lengthy period of time, during which I began to speak to my reflection out of fear of losing my language skills. In comparison, house arrest is far worse mentally.

Thoughts flood my mind: “The government is trying to make me go back to prison or be whoever they want me to be.”

“The government is making me dangerous.”

I’ve always denied the accusations levelled against me. Now, 15 years after my initial arrest, the authorities are still as dedicated to destroying me and my family, as they were when I was initially arrested.

The impact on my family has been indescribable. Since the most recent raid I have been separated from my family and currently live in a village hundreds of miles away from them. My son is traumatised and now wets himself at night, something he never used to do. He continuously tells his mum “we need to take dad back”. My daughter, who is older, believes she will never see me again.

“The government creates public enemies and deals with them as it pleases.”

Muslims have become the public enemy in France. Now many more people are living through a similar experience as I am.

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)