Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni, who has been in custody since the end of March, was sentenced on Monday to three years in prison, Nouredine Benissad, the lawyer for his defence group, told the AFP news agency. This announcement follows a trial that many considered to be a test case for freedom of information and expression in Algeria. “This is a very harsh verdict for Khaled Drareni. Three years of hard work. We are shocked. The file is empty,” said the lawyer, who is also president of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADH).
On 3 August, the prosecutor had requested four years in prison for the director of the news website Casbah Tribune and the Algerian correspondent of the French TV channel Tv5 Monde and the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Drareni, the Algerian correspondent of the French TV channel TV5-Monde and a member of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) association, took a stand in favour of “Hirak”, the protest movement that forced former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign.
At 40, Khaled Drareni is accused of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “undermining national unity” after covering a March 7 demonstration in Algiers by “Hirak,” the popular uprising that shook Algeria for more than a year until it was suspended a few months ago because of the pandemic. Imprisoned since 29 March in Kolea prison near Algiers, he was tried along with two “Hirak” figures, Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche, who have been sentenced to two years in prison (four months unconditional).
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