The activists are charged with acting in defiance of national interest.
Rabat – Algerian courts have sentenced three opposition activists to jail terms of up to 18 months over Facebook posts.
Human rights groups report that Algeria considers the postings of Soheib Debaghi, Larbi Tahar, and Boussif Mohamed Bouadiaf as potentially damaging to national interest.
The National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD) reported that Debaghi received a one-year sentence today on charges of encouraging an illegal gathering, insulting an official body, and publishing potentially damaging material.
Tahar and Bouadiaf each received 18-month jail sentences for posts they shared on Facebook, reported Amnesty International.
During a videoconference hearing for Tahar and Bouadiaf, prosecutors in the western town of El Bayadh called for three-year jail terms for both defendants, according to the CNLD.
The prosecution accused Tahar of insulting Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune by calling him “illegitimate,” and claimed Boudiaf criticized Algeria’s judicial system, said their lawyer, Abdelghani Badi.
Another Algerian activist accused of dissident Facebook posting has been held since April 27. Walid Kechida, 25, risks a five-year jail sentence for posting memes on social media allegedly mocking Algerian authorities and religion.
Political unrest has been brewing in Algeria since February 2019 when Algerians took to the streets in protest against the regime of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The protests began in opposition to the then 81-year-old president’s plan to prolong his 20-year presidency, but later demanded the removal of the political and military elite that have controlled the country for decades.
The Algerian Hirak
In addition to quashing Facebook opposition, the Algerian government has been cracking down on the Hirak movement with scores of arrests silencing activists and journalists and the arrests continue amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The case of Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni has made international headlines since his arrest on March 7, with human rights groups and European lawmakers reportedly pressing for his immediate release.
Algerian authorities accused Drareni, a correspondent for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and French TV5 and founder of the CasbahTribune news site, of “incitement to unarmed gathering” and “harming the integrity of the national territory.”
Police arrested him while he was covering a Hirak movement protest, released him days later under judicial supervision, and arrested him again on March 27. He may face up to 10 years in prison for his coverage of Hirak protests and criticism of Algeria’s handling of the movement.
Earlier this month, the Algerian president accused Drareni of being an “informant” for the French embassy without explicitly naming him.
Amnesty International urged Algerian authorities on April 27 to end “arbitrary prosecutions aimed at silencing Hirak activists and journalists” during the COVID-19 pandemic, calling for the release of detainees targeted by “sham trials.”
“At the time when all national and international eyes are focused on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Algerian authorities are investing time in accelerating prosecutions and trials against activists, journalists and supporters of the Hirak movement,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.
The CNLD says approximately 50 people are currently detained in Algeria over links to the movement.