March 7, 2018
Six human rights and political activists face prison terms for a peaceful protest in support of a human rights lawyer on trial, Human Rights Watch said today. Algerian authorities should drop all charges against the six before their new trial session, scheduled for March 20, 2018.
Authorities arrested the six on July 13, 2016, as they prepared to protest at the Ghardaia courthouse, where the lawyer, Salah Dabouz, had a court hearing. They were released the same day but were summoned in October 2017 for a hearing and charged with “incitement to a gathering of an unarmed nature,” insulting a public official, and refusing to abide by a law or decree. They are free pending trial.
“Prosecuting people who hold up banners calling for justice and respect for human rights before a courthouse is a telling illustration of Algeria’s intolerance of any public display of dissent,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.
The proceedings against Dabouz started shortly after he denounced the prison conditions for Kameleddine Fekhar, former president of the Ghardaia section of the LADDH, and his co-defendants, who were on trial for their alleged role in the deadly ethnic clashes that erupted in the Mzab region between 2013 and 2015.
An investigating judge summoned Dabouz on June 13, 2016, to answer accusations that he had insulted state institutions and smuggled a computer with a camera into Ghardaia prison. The court had kept him under judicial supervision from July 2016 until March 2017. Dabouz has not subsequently been brought to trial on these accusations.