Algeria court ditches sentence for blogger who interviewed Israeli
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Algeria court ditches sentence for blogger who interviewed Israeli

Merzoug Touati, 30, was to serve seven years for online video conversation with Foreign Ministry spokesman

Illustrative: Algerians walk past a portrait of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the capital Algiers on May 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Toufik Doudou)
Illustrative: Algerians walk past a portrait of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the capital Algiers on May 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Toufik Doudou)

ALGIERS, Algeria — An Algerian court has scrapped a seven-year jail sentence for a blogger accused of providing intelligence to foreign governments, his lawyer said Thursday.

Merzoug Touati, who was arrested in January 2017 after an online video interview with an Israeli official, remains behind bars pending a new trial, lawyer Salah Dabouz told AFP.

Dabouz said the case had been returned to the appeals court in the eastern city of Skikda, with the date of the hearing still to be set.

The lawyer warned that a fresh trial could end up seeing Touati, 30, being given a heftier sentence.

“It’s a sensitive case, I have a lot of fears,” Dabouz said.

But press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders said it was still “extremely relieved” to hear the sentence had been ditched.

Touati was initially handed a 10-year sentence in May, but that was cut to seven years following an appeal.

Muslim-majority Algeria has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

In addition to conducting an interview with a foreign ministry spokesman from the Jewish state, Touati in a Facebook post called for protests against a new financial law in Algeria prior to his arrest.

Rights groups have condemned the case against Touati, with Amnesty International saying he was being persecuted “solely for expressing his peaceful opinion online.”

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