Blogger Merzoug Touati was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 50,000 Dinars on Thursday by the Bejaia Court, 260 km east of Algiers.
On Thursday 24 May, the public prosecutor earlier demanded life imprisonment for the blogger who was being prosecuted for espionage “with foreign agents, in particular from Israel, with the aim of undermining Algeria’s diplomatic position”, “incitement to take up arms against the State” and “incitement to crowd gathering”.
Merzoug Touati has been detained since January 2017. The blogger “faced charges related to a Facebook message and a video posted on YouTube that, according to authorities, encouraged civil unrest in the country.
Blogger and freelance journalist Merzoug Touati was arrested on 18 January 2017 after posting a comment on Facebook calling for public protests over a financial law and a filmed interview on his YouTube channel with an Israeli diplomat and former Israeli Army Colonel, namely Hassn Kabia, in which the latter claimed that his country had an informal liaison office in the Algerian capital.
On 22 January 2017, the investigating judge of the Bejaia Court ordered Merzoug Touati’s pretrial detention and on 24 October, the indictment division of the Bejaia Court submitted the case to the criminal court, charging Merzoug Touati with “inciting to take up arms against the authority of the State”, “These include “incitement to unarmed assembly”, “intelligence with a foreign power (Israel) meant to undermine diplomatic relations” and “incitement to gatherings and sit-ins in public places”, (an act of civil disobedience)”.
In November 2017, defense lawyers appealed against the indictment before the Supreme Court.
Merzoug Touati is expected to appeal within 10 days against the verdict handed down by the Bejaia Court.