Algerian blogger sent to prison for interviewing Israeli

Algeria ImageAn Algerian blogger has appealed a 10-year prison term imposed on him for interviewing an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, his lawyer said on Sunday (27 May 2018), according to AFP.

The blogger, Merzoug Touati, was convicted on Thursday of providing intelligence to “agents of a foreign power” likely to damage Algeria, by a court in Bejaia, east of Algiers.

The 30-year-old blogger submitted his appeal the following day and was feeling “optimistic”, his lawyer Boubakeur Esseddik Hamaili said.

“I have seen my client, he is doing well and is a tower of strength. He proclaims his innocence as he has done nothing but exercise his rights guaranteed by the constitution,” the lawyer added.

Touati has been in prison since his arrest in January 2017 over an online video interview with an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman. He was also under arrest for a Facebook post in which he called for protests against a new financial law.

During his trial the court dropped three additional charges including incitement against the state, which his lawyer said carries the death sentence.

The 10-year jail term was described as “utterly shocking” by Amnesty International, which said Touati had been convicted “solely for expressing his peaceful opinion online”.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the sentence as “disproportionate and unjustified” and said a social network post should not lead to imprisonment.

Hamaili did not confirm when his client’s appeal would be heard in court.

Algeria, like many Muslim states, does not have relations with Israel. In April, an Algerian court sentenced eight people to 10 years in prison over espionage for Israel.

The eight were arrested in an operation carried out by the Algerian police in 2015 in the city of Ghardaia, 600 kilometers south of Algiers, and were allegedly found with documents and communications equipment related to espionage for Israel.

Last January, Algeria claimed it uncovered an international spy network made up of 10 members that was operating for Israel and was based in southern Algeria.