18 July 2018

Algerian Blogger On Hunger Strike Over Seven-Year Jail Term

Photo: Voice Of America
(File photo).
press release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its support for Merzoug Touati, an imprisoned Algerian blogger who has been on hunger strike for the past ten days in protest against his seven-year jail sentence on charges of "complicit relations with a foreign power" and "inciting rebellion." His case must be reexamined at once.

Detained since the beginning of last year, Touati stopped eating on 8 July to press his demands for his release, the quashing of his conviction and the withdrawal of all judicial proceedings against him.

Touati was initially sentenced in May to ten years in prison and fine of 50,000 dinars (360 euros) but the jail term was reduced to seven years on appeal at the end of June.

He was arrested on 17 January 2017, eight days after posting a Skype interview on social networks with a person who identified himself as an Israeli diplomat and claimed that there had been an Israeli liaison office in Algiers in the 1990s.

"We have repeatedly condemned Merzoug Touati's treatment and disproportionate sentence and now he is risking his life to protest against this sentence," said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF's North Africa bureau. "We remind the Algerian authorities that they are responsible for his survival and we urge the judicial system to quickly reexamine his case. This blogger has been wrongfully punished for using his right to inform."

Since his arrest, Touati has staged several hunger strikes to draw attention to the unjust nature of his detention.

Algeria is ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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