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Algeria rights activist cleared of contempt: lawyer

Algerian court acquits rights activist Abdelkader Kherba of charges he insulted an official during a protest against water cuts, lawyer states

AFP , Tuesday 11 Sep 2012
Views: 1252
Views: 1252

An Algerian rights activist Abdelkader Kherba was acquitted by an Algerian court Tuesday in Ksar el-Boukari, his hometown in the southwestern Algeria, and was allowed to leave prison.

"The case was without foundation and any decision other than his release would have been surprising," his lawyer Amine Sidhoum said.

Prosecutors had sought a year in prison for Kherba, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights.

The 32-year-old was arrested on 21 August at a demonstration against water cuts in Ksar el-Boukari, his hometown. He later launched a hunger strike to protest his detention.

Kherba had been preparing to film the demonstration when a policeman forcefully stopped him, and an angry exchange between the two followed, resulting in his arrest.

According to his legal defence team, the charges that he faced on Tuesday "had nothing to do with this event."

After his acquittal, Kherba returned home where he resumed eating, ending the 22-day hunger strike.

"I feel well. One must pay in order to secure freedom in Algeria and that is what I did. It was the first step of activism," Kherba told reporters.

But the unemployed activist complained about young people facing a similar plight: "Poor youths don't have jobs, housing, security or justice," in Algeria, he said.

Meanwhile another defence attorney described Tuesday's verdict as "just" and denounced authorities for trying to muzzle protesters who demonstrate against living conditions.

"The verdict was just but what Kherba went through was very serious," said attorney Salah Dabouz.

"They wanted to jail him because he is an activist and he is opposing peacefully social conditions. We denounce abuse by the court which... represses those who protest," he added.

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