On Monday, January 4, a young Algerian Internet user, a supporter of the anti-regime protest movement “Hirak,” was sentenced to three years in prison for posting on Facebook cartoons mocking President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and religion.
A verdict for the less severe which, also, is accompanied by a fine of 500,000 dinars, or 3,000 euros. The young man, Walid Kechida, is guilty of “insulting the president,” “the precepts of Islam.” But also of “an outrage to the corporate body.”
In pre-trial detention for eight months
The Sétif public prosecutor’s office, located in the northeast of the country, had also required five years in prison against the activist. Today, 25-year-old Walid has been in pre-trial detention for more than eight months. This did not fail to indignant a good number of associations.
An Internet user sentenced for caricatures: “the hour is severe.”
“Walid Kechida is unfortunately sentenced to three years in prison with a fine,” said Kaci Tansaout, coordinator of the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD), an association supporting prisoners of conscience in Algeria.
“The hour is solemn at the time when we expected his release today, or even a release. Now, we must all mobilize alongside the lawyers “for the” appeal trial, “said Kaci Tansaout.
As for Saïd Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, he denounced on Twitter that “the authorities maintain their authoritarian roadmap and decide on another coup in anticipation of the legislative elections. The hardening of penalties is the signal ”.
Freedom of expression in Algeria: arrests of activists multiply
Thus, for human rights defenders, this Algerian internet user’s conviction is undeniably a blow to freedom of expression, especially since arrests and arrests targeting anti-regime activists are daily. Despite the end of the weekly “Hirak” demonstrations since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Moreover, more than ninety people are currently in prison in Algeria in connection with the protests of Hirak or with individual freedoms. And in at least 90% of cases, his prosecutions are made following publication on social networks.
“The meme is not a crime.”
Consequently, a multitude of Internet users today demands the release of Walid Kechida. They notably share his portrait with sunglasses or use the slogans “Free Kechida” and “the meme is not a crime.”
But then, will the young Internet user regain his freedom? For now, we don’t know! Nevertheless, his conviction once again opens the debate on freedom of expression in Algeria.