The verdict, eagerly awaited by freedom fighters, came on Monday. The journalist has been in pre-trial detention since the end of March.
“Three years closed. We’re surprised. The file is empty,” said Nouredine Benissad, a lawyer with the Algerian journalist’s defense group. Khaled Drareni runs the online news website Casbah Tribune. He is also the Algerian correspondent for the TV station Tv5MONDE and the NGO Reporter Without Borders.
On 7 March, he was arrested in Algiers while covering a demonstration by Hirak, the popular uprising that has shaken Algeria for more than a year. He was then accused of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “undermining national unity”.
The journalist has always rejected these charges, including at the Monday morning hearing where he was tried together with two members of Hirak, Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche. He continues to claim that he only did his “work as a freelance journalist”.
The announcement of the firm three-year sentence is causing a lot of reaction on social networks. Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said: “This is clearly judicial persecution” against the journalist.
For several months now, the Algerian justice system has been prosecuting and convicting more and more Hirak activists and political opponents, as well as journalists and bloggers relaying the movement’s demands.