Algerian Protester Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Anti-Islam Memes

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Algerian authorities sentenced a man to three years in prison on Monday for his satirical social media posts mocking Algeria’s government and state religion, Islam, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Monday.

Authorities accused Walid Kechida, 25, of insulting Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and “offending the precepts” of Islam with internet memes and other online posts, according to Kaci Tansaout, a member of Algeria’s National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), a prisoners’ rights group.

“Walid Kechida is sadly sentenced to three years in prison with a fine,” Tansaout said.

“The public prosecutor in Algeria’s northeastern Setif province had called for a five-year sentence, and Kechida has already spent eight months in detention awaiting trial,” according to AFP.

Kechida is a supporter of Algeria’s anti-government protest movement, known as the Hirak. Algerian authorities have arrested and prosecuted several Hirak supporters in recent months as part of an overall effort to quell the protest movement, which has persisted in the country for nearly two years.

The Hirak launched in Algeria in February 2019, when millions of people took to the country’s streets to demand that then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resign after he sought a fifth term in office. The opposition movement successfully deposed Bouteflika, and he was replaced with President Abdelkader Bensalah in April 2019 until Tebboune was elected president in December 2019.

According to the CNLD, founded in 2019 to support the Hirak, “over 90 people, including activists, social media users and journalists, are currently in custody in connection with the country’s anti-government protest movement or individual liberties — mostly for dissenting social media posts.”

Tebboune signed Algeria’s new constitution into law on January 1 after it was approved in a November referendum. The president promoted the document as the “cornerstone of the new Algeria” and hopes it will help quell the ongoing Hirak protest movement.

The Algerian military seized power during the country’s spring 2019 political transition, proposing “five major resolutions,” to meet the Hirak’s demands, according to the Middle East Eye: “no fifth term for Bouteflika; an immediate end to his fourth term; the enforcement of Articles 7 and 8 of the Constitution vesting the people with constituent power; a peaceful transition of power with the promise of no bloodshed; and the implementation of a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.”

Although the resolutions seemed to meet the objectives of most Hirak demonstrators, “the military’s deal was rejected by the people speaking in the name of the Hirak,” according to the news outlet, and the protest movement has persisted in Algeria to a limited degree since then.

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