Algiers court demands 5 years in prison for journalist El-Kadi over 'foreign funding'
Algiers court demanded Sunday five years in prison and a five-year ban on journalism for renowned Algerian journalist Ihsane El-Kadi, who was detained last December.
El-Kadi was the director of the Algerian station Radio M and the news website Maghreb Emergent, two independent media outlets critical of the Algerian government.
He is suspected "of having received sums of money and privileges from persons and organizations in the country and abroad to engage in activities likely to undermine the state security and stability," said the Court of Algiers.
The court also requested the seizure of the journalist's "property and funds" and a fine of 700,000 dinars (nearly US$4,800).
Ten million dinars (more than US$68,000) in fines and the seizure of "goods and materials" were also required against Interface Media, which publishes Radio M and Maghreb Emergent. One of the most famous shareholders of Intercae is Nabil Melah, who was also prosecuted for "money laundering."
At the start of the trial, El-Kadi first refused to answer in court. "I exercise my right to remain silent while in detention," he told the judge.
A few minutes into the trial, the journalist condemned his arbitrary arrest, the false charges and the interference of Algerian President Tebboune in his case. "Tebboune insulted me," he said to the judge.
"The day when Tebboune will make me a khabarji (spy) is not about to happen!" he added. The court exploded into applause, reported local media.
El-Kadi referred to the president's recent statements to the Algerian state news agency when Tebboune said, "We arrested a Khabarji and closed an institution that was outlawed. The next day, lawyers are gathering everywhere. Algeria was targeted."
While the Algerian president did not mention El-Kadi by name, many El-Kadi supporters speculated that he meant the arrested journalist.
El-Kadi is being prosecuted under Article 95 of the Penal Code.
According to the article, "anyone who receives funds, a gift or a benefit ... to perform or incite to perform acts likely to undermine the security of the State, the stability and the normal functioning of its institutions, to national unity, to territorial integrity, to the interests of Algeria," will be punished by five to seven years in prison.
This is not the first time El-Kadi faced an Algerian court. For the past three years, the journalist underwent relentless judicial harassment.
In June 2021, he was sentenced to six months in prison without a warrant for an opinion piece on the role of Islamists in the Hirak movement.
"I dreamed that I filed a complaint against the President of the Republic for defamation and that I won my case," El-Kadi told the court before being accompanied outside as the judge announced a break to restore order.
As a last word, the journalist asked for a provisional release. A request to which the judge replies that "it requires specific procedures."
According to local media, the Sidi M'hamed court in Algiers will deliver its verdict on 2 April.
Algeria is ranked 134th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) world press freedom index in 2022.