Algerian jailed for 3 years for political protest memes

AFP , Monday 4 Jan 2021

'Walid Kechida is sadly sentenced to three years in prison with a fine,' Tansaout said, adding that lawyers would appeal

An Algerian supporter of the Hirak protest movement was sentenced to three years in jail Monday for satirical social media posts mocking the government and religion, a campaign group said.

Walid Kechida, 25, was accused of insulting President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and "offending the precepts" of Islam in internet memes and other online posts, said Kaci Tansaout, from the CNLD prisoners' rights group.

"Walid Kechida is sadly sentenced to three years in prison with a fine," Tansaout said, adding that lawyers would appeal.

Lawyer Moumen Chadi confirmed the sentence.

The public prosecutor in Algeria's northeastern Setif province had called for a five-year sentence, and Kechida has already spent eight months in detention awaiting trial.

Algerian authorities have arrested and prosecuted several activists in a bid to stem the Hirak protesters.

The CNLD says over 90 people, including activists, social media users and journalists, are currently in custody in connection with the country's anti-government protest movement or individual liberties -- mostly for dissenting social media posts.

Tebboune last week signed Algeria's new constitution into law, a change the government hopes will turn the page on the long-running Hirak mass protest movement.

The Hirak first launched vast street demonstrations in early 2019 to oppose then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in office.

Following his resignation that April, the Hirak kept up the pressure to demand a full overhaul of the ruling system in place since the North African nation's 1962 independence from France.

A November referendum to approve the constitutional changes received the backing of less than 15 percent of the electorate, in a vote overshadowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic and Hirak calls for a boycott.

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