Algerian Blogger Jailed Over Facebook Poem; Dies After 3 Months of Hunger Strike

Mohamed Tamalt

Mohamed Tamalt, a 42-year-old British-Algerian blogger and journalist, died in Bab el-Oued hospital after 3 months of a hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment. Tamalt was sentenced to 2 years in prison over sharing a video on Facebook featuring a poem, allegedly offensive towards the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Tamalt’s lawyer, Amine Sidhoum, confirmed his death on a Facebook post:

“I can confirm the death of the journalist Mohamed Tamalt in Bab el-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma”

Tamalt launched the hunger strike on the day of his arrest in the capital Algiers on June 27. He was rushed into Bab el-Oued hospital in late August, after his medical condition severely deteriorated. After over 3 months in coma, Tamlt died of a lung infection.

Tamalt was convicted on July 11 with ‘offending the president’ and ‘defaming a public authority’ under articles 144bis and 146 of the Algerian penal code. He was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and 200,000 dinars (£1,400) fine. His sentence was upheld by an appeals court on August 9, not long before he was rushed to the hospital over his lingering hunger strike.

Tamalt has been living in London, United Kingdom, since 2002. He was publishing a blog called Assiyak Alarabi (“Arabic Context”), critical towards the Algerian authorities. Tamalt was also a journalist writing for the Algerian daily Al-Khabar.

According to the Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom in the world report, Algeria is marked as ‘Not Free’. The press freedom in the state is also marked as not free. Cybercrime law, issued in 2009, gives authorities the right to block websites ‘contrary to the public order or decency’, while a centralized system monitors internet traffic. Bloggers and journalists are being pressured into self censorship by the threat of criminal defamation laws.

 

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