“RIP, justice of my country! I wish I had known you dead [rather] than to see you so weak, cowardly, unworthy ... " The cry of journalist and writer Mustapha Benfodil echoed, Monday, August 10, the anger expressed on social networks in Algeria, at the announcement, the same day, of the conviction of journalist Khaled Drareni to three years of farm prison.
The latter's lawyers had no illusions about the possibility of an acquittal. But they were stunned by the harshness of the verdict. Evoking a "Empty folder", they denounced a "Particular relentlessness" against the journalist, linked to his coverage of Hirak, the power protest movement, which has been behind major protests in Algeria, since February 2019.
According to relatives, Khaled Drareni had been summoned at least three times by the internal security directorate, when he was ordered to stop covering the protests. In vain. The 40-year-old journalist runs the site Casbah Tribune, hosts the “Café presse politique”, a popular program on Radio-M, broadcast on the Internet, and collaborates with the French channel TV5. He is also the correspondent of Reporters Without Borders and, as such, has been very active in the defense of journalists.
“Agent” from abroad
Arrested on March 7, 2020, while covering a demonstration, Khaled Drareni was prosecuted, along with activists Samir Belarbi and Slimane Hamitouche (the latter fighting for the cause of the missing of the “black decade”; 1990s) for “incitement to unarmed gathering ”and“ attack on the integrity of the national territory ”. Charges that come up in virtually all the prosecutions against the Hirak figures who resumed their activism with a strong cadence after the end of the demonstrations in mid-March, because of the Covid-19.
For lawyer Zoubida Assoul, the verdict is "the translation of the declaration of the head of state"
Originally placed under judicial supervision, Khaled Drareni was imprisoned on March 28. On July 2, Slimane Hamitouche and Samir Belarbi were granted provisional release. Sentenced on August 10 to two years in prison, four of which are closed, but having already completed their sentence, they remain free. For the same charges, Khaled Drareni is sentenced to three years of imprisonment. "It is the journalist who is targeted", say his colleagues.
Khaled Drareni had been the subject of a smear campaign on social networks presenting him as a "Agent" from abroad, and from France in particular. Disgusted, his father, Sid Ahmed Drareni, a veteran of the War of Independence, issued an open letter to the President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, denouncing the fact that the injustice suffered by Khaled "Is accompanied by an odious campaign to question its patriotism".
A missive which did not prevent, a few weeks later, the Algerian head of state from accusing, without directly naming him, Khaled Drareni of "Quasi-intelligence with foreign parties". For lawyer Zoubida Assoul, former magistrate, the verdict delivered on Monday is "The translation of the declaration of the Head of State". "We felt it in the indictment and the president's questions, he added. It is a political condemnation and a political decision. " A petition signed by numerous journalists, activists and citizens denounces the "Special treatment" reserved for the journalist.
Since the end of the demonstrations in mid-March, the Algerian authorities have toughened the repression against Hirak militants. His project to revise the Constitution does not arouse enthusiasm, the opposition believing that it does not change the nature of the regime in a growing economic and social context. Power is reduced to multiply "Populist measures and repression", writes Hosni Kitouni, researcher in history, on his Facebook page, with a risk that this will lead to “Totally uncontrollable forms of radicalization”. source:https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/08/11/en-algerie-la-colere-apres-la-condamnation-du-journaliste-khaled-drareni_6048668_3210.html