Algerian court frees blogger despite guilty verdict for Israel interview

Algerian court frees blogger despite guilty verdict for Israel interview

Merzoug Touati was initially given 7 years in prison for talking online with Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson; punishment reduced to two-year custodial sentence

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

ALGIERS, Algeria — An Algerian court ordered a blogger released on time served Monday after finding him guilty of colluding with a foreign power at a retrial, his lawyer said.

Merzoug Touati, 30, has been through a roller-coaster legal process since he was arrested in January 2017 after an online interview with an Israeli official.

His seven-year jail sentence was quashed in January, but he was kept in custody to face a fresh trial.

On Monday he was found guilty again but handed a reduced two-year custodial sentence, meaning he was set to walk free, lawyer Salah Dabouz told AFP.

Rights activist Said Salhi said supporters were waiting outside the prison for Touati to complete formalities and be released.

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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