Algeria jails blogger for 10 years for interviewing Israeli diplomat

Merzoug Touati appeals prison term imposed for video interview with Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman; Reporters Without borders condemns sentence

Merzoug Touati (Screen capture: YouTube)
Merzoug Touati (Screen capture: YouTube)

ALGIERS, Algeria — An Algerian blogger has appealed against a 10-year prison term, his lawyer said on Sunday, after global rights groups condemned the severity of the sentence.

Merzoug Touati was convicted on Thursday of providing intelligence to “agents of a foreign power” likely to damage Algeria, by a court in Bejaia, east of Algiers.

The 30-year-old blogger submitted his appeal the following day and was feeling “optimistic,” his lawyer Boubakeur Esseddik Hamaili said.

“I have seen my client, he is doing well and is a tower of strength. He proclaims his innocence as he has done nothing but exercise his rights guaranteed by the constitution,” the lawyer added.

Touati has been in prison since his arrest in January 2017, over an online video interview with an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman and a Facebook post in which he called for protests against a new financial law.

During his trial, the court dropped three additional charges including incitement against the state, which his lawyer said carries the death sentence.

The 10-year jail term was described us “utterly shocking” by Amnesty International, which said Touati had been convicted “solely for expressing his peaceful opinion online.”

Reporters Without Borders condemned the sentence as “disproportionate and unjustified” and said a social network post should not lead to imprisonment.

Prosecutors had called for the blogger to be given a life sentence, while his lawyer urged the court to throw out the charges.

Hamaili did not confirm when his client’s appeal would be heard in court.

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