British-Algerian blogger imprisoned over Facebook poem dies

British-Algerian blogger imprisoned over Facebook poem dies
A blogger who staged a three-month hunger strike after being imprisoned for a poem posted on Facebook, has died in hospital, according to his lawyer.
2 min read
The blogger was jailed for posting a poem about Algeria's president [Getty]

A British-Algerian journalist died on Sunday, three months into a hunger strike to protest a two-year jail term for offending Algeria's president in a poem posted online, his lawyer said.

"I can confirm the death of the journalist Mohamed Tamalt in Bab el-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma," Amine Sidhoum said on Facebook.

The prison service, in a statement said Tamalt had died of a lung infection for which he was receiving treatment since it was detected on Dec. 4.

Tamalt, a dual national, launched the hunger strike in protest after his arrest near his parents' house in the capital Algiers on June 27.

The 42-year-old blogger and freelance journalist who ran a website from London where he lived was charged with "offending" President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and "defaming a public authority" in the poem which he shared on Facebook.

A court in Algiers sentenced him two years in prison on July 11 and fined him 200,000 dinars ($1,800), and an appeals court upheld the ruling a month later.

Human Rights Watch had urged Algerian authorities to release him in August when he was reportedly in critical condition.

"The Algerian authorities should quash the case against Tamalt and send the message that free speech will be respected in Algeria," it said at the time.

A similar case was reported in September when Algerian authorities sentenced a man to three years in prison for Facebook posts “insulting Islam”.

Human Rights Watch [HRW] condemned the conviction, urging Algerian prosecutors to stop bringing charges against people over "peaceful expressions" of religious, political or other views.

Slimane Bouhafs, a Christian convert, was arrested after sharing Facebook posts which included “a caricature representing the Prophet Mohammad as a terrorist” and other posts “slandering Islam as a religion of intolerance and hatred”, according to court papers.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Algeria is a state party, guarantees freedom of expression and opinion