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Algeria: political activist sentenced to 7 years in prison

Algerian security forces gather outside the Sidi Mhamed court in the capital Algiers on 10 December 2019 [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images]
Algerian security forces gather outside a court in the capital Algiers on 10 December 2019 [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images]

A court in Algeria has sentenced a political activist to seven years in prison on charges of "incitement to terrorism", according to local media. Clashes erupted between Algerian youth and the security forces across the country after the sentence was announced on Sunday.

Demonstrators blocked roads and burned tyres after the local criminal court sentenced activist and poet Amer Garash for "inciting and commending terrorist acts" and "displaying publications that harm the national interest", as well as "inciting an illegal gathering". Prosecutors had sought a minimum sentence of ten years for the 31 year old, who was arrested at his home on 1 July last year.

A video of Garash's mother appealing to Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to release her son has been posted on social media. Another video shows young men throwing stones at police officers who were firing tear gas at them. There were calls on social media to de-escalate the tension on the streets, but the situation remained strained on Sunday evening.

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Last June, hundreds of people protested peacefully in the Al-Makhadama neighbourhood in Ouargla against poor living conditions, marginalisation and deprivation. It is an oil-rich governorate, but has a high unemployment rate. Garash is known as a key player in the protest movement in Al-Makhadama.

On Sunday, the Algerian News Agency reported that the case arose when members of the judicial police in Ouargla observed a live broadcast on Garash's Facebook page in which he appeared to spread hate speech. He is also said to have posted pictures of weapons on social media.

The news agency reported that, in addition to the prison sentence, a fine of 200,000 Algerian dinars (about $ 1,500) was imposed on the defendant.

Algeria has released dozens of political prisoners linked to the Hirak protest movement in an effort to ease tension on the streets.

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