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12.09.2020 Algeria

Jailed Algeria journalist must be freed on health grounds: RSF

By AFP
Algerians carry portraits of journalist Khaled Drareni during a rally to protest against his imprisonment in the capital Algiers on September 7.  By RYAD KRAMDI (AFP)
LISTEN SEP 12, 2020
Algerians carry portraits of journalist Khaled Drareni during a rally to protest against his imprisonment in the capital Algiers on September 7. By RYAD KRAMDI (AFP)

Supporters of jailed Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni called Friday for his immediate release on health grounds.

Drareni, sentenced in August to three years in jail for his coverage of Algeria's anti-government protests, attended an appeal hearing on Tuesday, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

"The national and international Khaled Drareni Support Committees call for this journalist's immediate and unconditional release on health grounds after seeing how thin and weak he looked when brought before a court in Algiers at the start of his appeal hearing on 8 September," RSF said.

"Those grossly unjust proceedings are putting his health in grave danger," it said, quoting the committees, which include lawyers, journalists, NGOs and ordinary citizens.

Editor of the Casbah Tribune news site and correspondent for French-language TV5 Monde, Drareni, 40, was found guilty of "inciting an unarmed gathering" and "endangering national unity" with his coverage of Algeria's year-long demonstrations.

His case has been seen as a barometer of press freedoms in Algeria.

RSF, for which Drareni also works, condemned his conviction as "arbitrary, absurd and violent".

Drareni "should have been acquitted right from the outset because the charges brought against him were so absurd", it said.

"But now, ending the judicial harassment to which he is being subjected is urgent on health grounds as well."

His lawyer said the appeal verdict was to be delivered on September 15.

RSF ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2019.

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