ALGIERS (Reuters) - A British-Algerian journalist had died six months after staging a hunger strike in Algiers over his detention for publishing articles seen as offensive to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, prison authorities and his lawyer said.
Rights groups called for an investigation into Mohamed Tamalt’s death - Reporters Without Borders said the news was a “hammer blow to all those who defend freedom of information in Algeria”.
The 42-year-old blogger and freelance reporter succumbed to a lung infection in hospital in Algiers on Sunday, the prison service said in a statement.
“I can confirm the death of the journalist Mohamed Tamalt in Bab el-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma,” lawyer Amine Sidhoum said on Facebook.
Tamalt, who was based in London, was arrested in Algeria in June for posts he had shared on Facebook that were seen as critical of Algerian authorities.
Placed in pre-trial detention for “offending the president” and “defaming a public authority”, he was later given a two-year sentence for offence against a public official, according to Human Rights Watch.
“It is urgent that lawyers are allowed access to the journalist’s medical dossier,” Yasmine Kacha, North Africa director of Reporters Without Borders, said.
“A public apology should be presented to the journalist’s family and an investigation immediately opened,” she said in a statement.”
Algeria’s prison service said the hospital had been treating Tamalt for his lung infection, and he had been receiving daily treatment since beginning his hunger strike in late June.
Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Andrew Heavens