Prosecution’s case against imprisoned Algerian journalist is empty

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Algerian authorities to drop all the charges against imprisoned Algerian journalist Ihsane El Kadi and to free him at once because the prosecution has absolutely no case against him. El Kadi and his lawyers have meanwhile announced that they will boycott his trial, which is due to open in Algiers on 12 March, because of all the irregularities.

The co-founder and director of Radio M and the Maghreb Émergent news site, Ihsane El Kadi was arrested on 24 December and was placed in pre-trial detention five days later on charges of “receiving funds and benefits from foreign sources for the purpose of engaging in political propaganda" and "undermining state security (...) and public order.” 

Both El Kadi and his lawyers now say they will boycott the trial because of “countless irregularities” and the “absence of guarantees of a fair trial” and because the trial will be based on an empty case file.

"There is no document in the court file attesting that Ihsane El Kadi or Interface Médias [the company that owns of Radio Mand Maghreb Émergent] received funds from foreign entities or from a foreign person,” one of his lawyers, Zoubida Assoul, said at a press conference on 4 March, disputing the claims made by the judicial authorities and reported by media outlets that support the government.

Assoul said the charges were based solely on a sum of 25,000 pounds sterling (28,000 euros) that El Kadi’s daughter, an Interface Médias shareholder, sent to him from the United Kingdom, where she resides – a sum sent in instalments over three years, from 2019 to 2022 – to pay the salaries of the journalists and other employees at Interface Médias, which was in financial difficulty. Assoul said the company had accumulated an estimated tax debt of 9 million dinars (more than 61,000 euros) from 2019 to 2022 and was no longer able to pay their salaries. 

“The information provided by Ihsane El Kadi's lawyers clearly shows that the accusations brandished by the Algerian judicial authorities are just a pretext to keep him in prison and to silence the freely reported, independent journalism provided so well by the two media outlets he embodies. We call for the withdrawal of all charges against El Kadi and for his immediate release. It is time for the authorities to stop persecuting him.

Khaled Drareni
RSF’s North Africa representative

The arrest of El Kadi, who has been subjected to growing political and judicial harassment for years, prompted a major outcry. A joint appeal for his release was issued in early January by 16 international media owners and editors, including Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021. The RSF-launched petition for his release has already received more than 11,000 signatures. 

RSF also asked Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to intercede as a matter of urgency. The letter to Khan pointed out that El Kadi’s arrest on 24 December came just days after he published a tweet and articles on the Radio Mwebsite that were very critical of the Algerian authorities, and that this clearly shows that his arrest was politically motivated with the aim of gagging independent media outlets.

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