A British-Algerian journalist died yesterday, three months into a hunger strike to protest against a two-year jail term for writing a poem about Algeria’s president, his lawyer has revealed.
“I can confirm the death of journalist Mohamed Tamalt in Bab El-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma,” Amine Sidhoum said on Facebook. According to Algerian prison officials, however, Tamalt died of a lung infection for which he was being treated.
The 42-year-old blogger and freelance journalist was arrested near his parents’ house in the capital Algiers in June this year. He began his hunger strike in protest against the severity of his sentence, which included a fine of around $1,800.
Tamalt was based in London and was charged with “offending” President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and “defaming public authority” in the poem.
Human Rights Watch urged the Algerian authorities to release him in August when his condition began to deteriorate. “The Algerian authorities should quash the case against Tamalt and send the message that free speech will be respected in Algeria,” HRW said in a media statement.