Khaled Drareni must be freed on urgent health grounds, committees say

The national and international Khaled Drareni Support Committees call for this journalist’s immediate and unconditional release on urgent health grounds after seeing how thin and weak he looked when brought before a court in Algiers at the start of his appeal hearing on 8 September.

“These grossly unjust proceedings are putting his health in grave danger,” the committees said in a joint appeal to the Algerian authorities to come to their senses.

The editor of the Casbah Tribune news website and the Algeria correspondent of both RSF and the French TV channel TV5 Monde, Khaled Drareni should have been acquitted right from the outset because the charges brought against him were so absurd. But now, ending the judicial harassment to which he is being subjected is urgent on health grounds as well.

Held in Koléa prison near Algiers in harsh conditions since 29 March, Drareni appeared not only to have lost a lot of weight but also to be very weak at the 8 September hearing.

The national Khaled Drareni Support Committee was created the day after Drareni was sentenced to three years in prison on 12 August. Made up lawyers, journalists, NGOs and ordinary citizens, it organizes demonstrations every Monday outside the House of the Press in Algiers in which hundreds of journalists take part.

The international support committee, whose members include Pierre Audin, the son of Algerian independence hero Maurice Audin, was created on 23 July and launched a major international solidarity campaign entitled #WeAreKhaled in mid-August.

On 7 September, RSF organized a protest outside the Algerian embassy in Paris in solidarity with Drareni in which many well-known French TV anchors took part. A demonstration was also held in Tunis the same day at the request of RSF, the National Union of Tunisian Journalists and Amnesty International.

The absurd charges on which Drareni was convicted at the original trial were “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity.” The prosecutor asked for his three-year jail sentence to be increased to four years at the appeal hearing on 8 September. The court is expected to issue its decision on 15 September.

Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2019 and 27 places lower than in 2015.

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Updated on 11.09.2020