May 25, 2018 / 11:48 AM / in 5 months

Algerian blogger accused of espionage sentenced to 10 years in prison

ALGIERS (Reuters) - An Algerian blogger arrested last year over social media posts has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage and other charges, a human rights activist said on Friday.  

Charges against the blogger, Merzoug Touati, included “incitement for taking up arms against the state” and “encouraging crowd gathering”, said Said Salhi, a member of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.  

They also included espionage “with foreign agents, in particular from Israel, with the goal of tarnishing Algeria’s diplomatic position”, Salhi said.

Touati was arrested in January 2017 after he published a Facebook message and a video on YouTube on accounts that were later deleted.

One post called for protests against a 2017 finance law, while the video included an interview with an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman who denied accusations by the Algerian authorities that Israel was behind anti-government protests in Algeria at the time.

Amnesty International said it had reviewed court documents that list the posts as evidence against Touati and that it had found “no incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred”.

“Rather, his posts were covered by freedom of expression in relation to his work as a citizen-journalist,” the rights group said in a statement.

Touati was sentenced on Thursday by a court in Bejaia, east of the capital Algiers. 

He has 10 days to appeal the verdict, according to Algerian law. 

Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Gareth Jones

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