Mohamed Tamalt, a 42-year-old British-Algerian blogger and journalist, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and 200,000 dinars ($1,800) fine over allegedly insulting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and other Algerian officials on his Facebook account.
Tamalt, who lives in London and writes for the Essiak El Aarabi online newspaper, was arrested in June 27 during a personal visit to Algeria. He has been detained in El Harrach prison in Algiers, capital city of Algeria, where he started a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary arrest. The court refused Tamalt’s appeal to be released on bail during his trial.
According to Tamalt’s Lawyer, Amine Sidhoum, the charges against Tamalt of “offending the president of the republic” are punishable under the penal code of Algeria by a fine, but do not carry prison terms. The Lawyer expressed his intentions to lodge an appeal against the prison sentence.
According to Freedom House’s 2015 report, Algeria is marked as “Not Free”. Local cybercrime law, which came into force in 2009, allows authorities to block websites which deemed to be “contrary to the public order or decency”. According to the report, Internet traffic is being monitored by a centralized system. Bloggers and journalists are being threatened by government officials using the criminal defamation laws, pressuring them into self censorship.
Tamalt’s sentence poses a dangerous alarm, marking a crackdown on freedom of expression in Algeria.