(May 28, 2018 / JNS) An Algerian blogger has been given a 10-year prison sentence for interviewing an Israeli official.
Merzoug Touati was convicted on Thursday of “incitement to non-armed gathering,” “foreign intelligence aiming at harming diplomatic ties,” and “incitement to gatherings and sit-ins in public spaces” by an Algerian court. The 30-year-old has already filed an appeal.
Touati was arrested in January 2017 for conducting an online video interview with an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman and for calling on Algerians to protest a new financial law on Facebook.
The interview was conducted with Hassan Kaabia, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson for Arabic-speaking media.
While the released video is largely about reforms to Algerian financial laws, The Annahar, an Algerian newspaper, came out with an article titled: “The blogger’s case exposes an international network to recruit Algerians to the Mossad.” The article included a map claiming to list Touati’s connections in Israel and asserted that Touati aimed to undermine the stability of Algeria.
A followup article allegedly quoted Touati admitting to being in contact with the Mossad, and said he was gathering information on Jewish property in Algeria for Israel, as well as managing a page to recruit Algerians to the Mossad on Facebook.
Touti has denied providing any information to Israel, asserting that his interview was within his constitutional rights.
The court dropped three charges of incitement against the state, which could have handed him a death penalty sentence.
The verdict has been condemned by Amnesty International as “utterly shocking” and contrary to freedom of speech, and by Reporters Without Borders as “disproportionate and unjustified.”
Algeria has no diplomatic relations with Israel. In April, eight Algerians charged with spying for Israel were sentenced to 10 years in prison by an Algerian court.