ALGIERS, 10 January 2021 – An Algerian court has sentenced a man, Walid Kechida, to three years in prison with a fine for mocking Algerian authorities and religion.
One of his lawyers, Moumen Chadi, confirmed the sentence, adding that the defense intended to appeal the ruling.
Walid Kechida posted satirical cartoons on Facebook leading to charges against him for insulting Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and for “offending the precepts” of Islam..
The Facebook page he used – Hirak Memes – is named after the leaderless organization that has been mobilizing massive street protests for several years already.
The protests culminated in August 2019 in the stepping down from power of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The posting of the cartoons led to Walid Kechida being arrested and detained over the past ten months.
Human rights groups, including the Algerian League of Human Rights, has decried the sentence and called on the Algerian government to release him immediately and unconditionally.
“Algeria’s government continues its vengeance against Hirak activists,” said Ahmed Benhemsi, advocacy and communication director at Hurman Rights Watch for the Middle East and North Africa.
The sentencing of Kechida “is a signal” of what is to come, warned Said Salhi, the vice president of the Algerian League for Human Rights.
The public prosecutor in the northeastern Algerian province of Setif had called for a five-year sentence.
Algerian authorities have arrested, charged and prosecuted many members of the Hirak protest movement.
Over 90 people associated with or supportive of the movement are currently in custody in connection with anti-governemt protests, a majority of them for social media posts.