Sentenced for Civil Disobedience
Algerian opposition activist Karim Tabbou, one of the most recognisable activists in anti-government protests last year, has been given a one-year suspended sentence for “undermining national security,” according to one of his lawyers.
“You’ve witnessed a lot of things and especially a lot of disappointment. I’m hurt to hear these accusations of hurting the morale of troops and attacking national unity,” Tabbou said during his trial, according to Algerian media reports.
A court in Kolea, near Algiers, also ordered Tabbou to pay a 100,000 dinar (637 euro) fine for the same charge, while also clearing of the “damaging the morale of the army” legal citation.
The Hirak Movement in Algeria
Tabbou participated in last year’s mass demonstrations against longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.
The rallies led by the Hirak movement continued well beyond Bouteflika’s resignation in April 2019 resignation only to be suspended at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. As was also the trial of Karim Tabbou — a key Hirak figure, for the same reason.
Tabbou — who was facing three years in prison in addition to a fine, had been provisionally released in July on the orders of Bouteflika’s successor, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a move many viewed as a way to appease the Hirak.
As such, he had not been in custody but was once again detained on September 26 and is currently free.
Prior Crimes of Activism
In a separate case, the 47-year-old had been sentenced on appeal on March 24 to one year in prison. The sentence came in light of the charge of “undermining national security” – one he has already served including time in detention while on trial.
“It is truly unfortunate to convict a person twice on the same charge,” said lawyer Nassima Rezazgui. “It is against the law. Our struggle continues for the rule of law.”
Prisoners’ rights group the CNLD says around 90 activists, social media users and journalists are currently in custody, mostly for Facebook posts.
The Fight Continues for Algerians
The activist who claims to have “learned politics from people like Hocine Ait Ahmed” — a veteran of Algeria’s independence struggle who later became a leftist opposition figure, is the leader of a small, unregistered opposition party, the Democratic Social Union (UDS).
Last month, he bitterly criticised French President Emmanuel Macron’s support for Tebboune, who has been receiving treatment abroad after contracting the Covid-19 illness.
In a Facebook post, the activist accused Macron of “political hypocrisy” in his support for “an arrogant regime that imprisons journalists, flouts public liberties and subjects the judiciary to its diktat.”