ALGIERS: An Algerian court on Tuesday sentenced an Algerian-Canadian researcher, as well as an Algerian journalist, each to two years in prison, one of their lawyers said.
Raouf Farrah, 36, and Mustapha Bendjama, 32, were convicted of publishing classified information by the court in the eastern city of Constantine, said Kouceila Zerguine, who represents Farrah.
Farrah was also found guilty of receiving funds “with the intention of committing acts that could undermine public order,” the lawyer said on Facebook.
“They have both been sentenced to two years in prison,” said Zerguine, noting they had already been behind bars for more than six months.
Zerguine later told AFP that an appeal had been filed against the sentence, expressing hopes that Farrah and his father, who is also accused, will be “acquitted on appeal.”
Farrah, a research analyst for the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), was arrested on February 14 at his parents’ home in Annaba, an eastern port city.
GI-TOC has launched an international campaign for his release, posting Farrah’s photo and a count of the days and hours he has been imprisoned on their website.
Mark Micallef, the director of GI-TOC’s North Africa and the Sahel Observatory, on Tuesday said he was “appalled” by the verdict.
“We have obviously been following the case very closely and are of the opinion that the prosecution failed to present any basis to sustain the charges,” he told AFP.
Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa on Tuesday posted against the sentence, suggesting it was politically motivated.
“It once again attests to the all-out repression by the authorities under spurious pretexts and through the instrumentalization of the judiciary,” Eric Goldstein wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The researcher is married to a Canadian woman and has a four-year-old daughter.
Bendjama is the editor-in-chief of Le Provincial, a privately owned newspaper based in Annaba.
He has been implicated in several cases since he became involved in the pro-democracy Hirak movement in 2019.
The journalist was arrested on February 8 at his newspaper and accused of helping French-Algerian political activist Amira Bouraoui to travel from Algeria via Tunisia two days earlier, despite her being barred from leaving the country.
The Bouraoui case, described by the Algerian government as “illegal exfiltration,” led to the resurgence of diplomatic tensions with France that have since been resolved.
The trial of Bendjama and others accused of aiding the activist will be held separately at a date yet to be determined.
Several journalists and activists are imprisoned in Algeria, which ranks 136 out of 180 countries and territories in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)