Algeria: six months in prison for memes

Walid Kechida, a young Algerian activist prosecuted for publishing โ€œmemesโ€ mocking the authorities and religion on Facebook, was sentenced on Sunday on appeal to one year in prison, six months of which is closed, according to his lawyer.

At the appeal trial in Setif (north-west), the prosecutors office demanded three years in prison, the same sentence as that handed down at first instance.

โ€œWe were expected to relax because Walid Kechida did nothing that deserves prison,โ€ Master Fouad Betka, a member of his defense committee told AFP. But โ€œhe was sentenced to one year in prison, including 6 months firm and 6 months suspended, and to a fine of 30,000 dinars (180 euros).โ€

Information confirmed by the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD), an association that helps prisoners of conscience in Algeria.

Walid Kechida, 25, will be able to leave prison this Sunday. He had been in detention since April 27, 2020.

โ€œRelief. He leaves prison today after 9 months of detention and a conviction against the background of an empty case and unfounded prosecutions,โ€ said Saรฏd Salhi on Twitter the vice-president of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH).

A well-known activist of the Algerian youth, a supporter of the โ€œHirakโ€, the popular protest movement born in February 2019, Mr. Kechida was prosecuted for โ€œoffending the president (Abdelmadjid Tebboune)โ€, โ€œthe precepts of Islamโ€ and โ€œcontempt to bodyโ€.

He was accused of publishing memes โ€” images diverted humorously on social networks โ€” affecting the authorities, including President Tebboune and religion.

These viral illustrations were published on the Facebook group โ€œHirak Memesโ€, of which Mr. Kechida was the administrator.

Amnesty International and LADDH have called for the release of the activist from Setif, whose case has become emblematic of restrictions on freedoms in Algeria, including on the internet, and the abandonment of all charges against him.

According to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees, some 80 people are currently imprisoned in Algeria in connection with the protests of the โ€œHirakโ€ and/or individual freedoms. Prosecutions based in at least 90% of cases on publications critical of the authorities on social networks.