Khaled Drareni’s lawyers and supporters launched a call on Wednesday for international mobilisation to release the journalist who has become a symbol for the struggle for freedom of the press in Algeria, after being sentenced to three years in prison for “undermining national unity.”
At a press conference in the capital, Attorney Zubaida Asoul appealed to: “The citizens, elites and all journalists, wherever they are inside and outside the country.”
“We must take action to prevent these practices, and to confront the authorities that do the opposite of what they say,” asserted Asoul, who is also the president of the Union for Change and Progress.
Drareni, who has been held in temporary detention since 29 March, was sentenced to three years in prison and fined for “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “undermining national unity.”
His arrest came after he covered a demonstration on 7 March in the capital of the popular movement that shook Algeria for a year, before it was interrupted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the trial, which took place via teleconference, Drareni denied the charges against him, stating that he: “Only did his work as an independent journalist.”
His other lawyer, Abdul Ghani Badi, who also attended the press conference, asked: “How [can] sharing a video on social media be considered a crime punishable by law?”
Badi conveyed his regret that: “Drareni received the harshest sentence since the trials of the movement’s activists began.”
The harsh verdict shocked the journalist’s Algerian colleagues and sparked protests among defenders of press freedom and journalists’ protection.
On Wednesday, 30 Tunisian organisations signed a petition in support of Drareni, calling for his: “Immediate, unconditional release and as soon as possible.”
Several demonstrations abroad demanding the release of Drareni, especially in New York and Geneva, are expected to take place in the coming period.