Rabat – Kamel Eddine Fekhar, the Algerian human rights activist and outspoken Ibadite minority figure, has been sentenced by Médéa court, South Algiers, to 5 years in prison and fined DZD 50,000 on Wednesday.
Fekhar, 52, has been an activist for the autonomy of the region of M’zab, northern Algerian Sahara, and a strong critic of Algerian authorities in the way they have been dealing with recurrent tensions in the city of Ghardaia in the region of M’zab, between Malekite Arabs and Ibadite Amazigh.
Abdellah Benabdellah, another activist, was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
The two Ibadite activists were found guilty of “threatening national security” and “territorial integrity” of Algeria, and “violence and hatred incitement” for articles published in 2013.
Ghardaia has for a long time been home to sectarian and ethnic clashes. Fekhar accused Algerian authorities of taking the side of the Malikite community.
In July 2015 clashes broke out again in Ghardaia. Fekhar issued an SOS call to the United Nations Secretary General to save the local Ibadite population of M’zab from prosecution at the hands of security forces.
The human rights activist and other Amazigh NGOs inside and outside Algeria accused the regime of both fueling tensions between the two communities and oppressing the Ibadite minority.
It was at this time that Fekhar was arrested. Months after his detention, he went on a hunger strike which lasted 107 days.
Commenting on the sentence, Hamid Ferhi, the Secretary General of the left-wing party Mouvement démocratique et sociale (MDS), told Algérie Focus that the accusations against Fekhar were “unfounded”.
His lawyer, Salah Debouz, told Jeune Afrique in February that his client was pursued because “he uncovered the illegal practices of security services during the clashes.”
“My client has publicly denounced the direct implication of elements of security services either in providing a cover for outlaws or taking part” in the aggressions against Ibadites, he said.
Debouze described the imprisonment of Fekhar and Benabdellah as “a political manipulation” by the state of the clashes in Gherdaia.
“The day before his arrest, a meeting was held in the presidential palace. They needed a scapegoat”, he added.