Amnesty International yesterday condemned an Algerian appeal court's ruling against journalist Khaled Drareni who had been sentenced to two years in prison over his coverage of the Hirak protest movement.
"Today's prison sentence for prominent journalist Khaled Drareni is a mockery of justice in a country supposedly undergoing political change and transformation following mass protests," Amna Guellali, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said.
"These harsh sentences underline the broader crackdown on freedoms in the country, and confirm an alarming pattern of prosecutions targeting journalists and activists who called for more democracy and respect for the rule of law in Algeria," she added.
The rights watchdog said two other activists; Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche had each been sentenced to a year in prison, eight months of which were suspended, "in the same sham trial".
Guellali called on the Algerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Drareni and others "who are being detained for daring to document police violence and arbitrary arrests during protests. It is crucial for the future of human rights in Algeria that they are set free."
In August, the court of first instance sentenced Drareni, editor of the Casbah Tribune news site and Algeria correspondent of Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the French TV channel TV5 Monde, to three years in prison.
Drareni was convicted of "inciting an unarmed gathering" and "endangering national unity".
RSF also denounced the court ruling, saying it "contributes to the deterioration of the image of Algeria".