Algerian blogger accused of espionage sentenced to 10 years in prison

Merzoug Touati. (Courtesy photo)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Algerian blogger accused of espionage sentenced to 10 years in prison

  • Amnesty International said it had reviewed court documents that list the posts as evidence against Touati
  • Touati was arrested in January 2017 after he published a Facebook message and a video on YouTube

ALGIERS: An Algerian blogger arrested last year over social media posts has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage and other charges, a human rights activist said on Friday.
Charges against the blogger, Merzoug Touati, included “incitement for taking up arms against the state” and “encouraging crowd gathering,” said Said Salhi, a member of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
They also included espionage “with foreign agents, in particular from Israel, with the goal of tarnishing Algeria’s diplomatic position,” Salhi said.
Touati was arrested in January 2017 after he published a Facebook message and a video on YouTube on accounts that were later deleted.
One post called for protests against a 2017 finance law, while the video included an interview with an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman who denied accusations by the Algerian authorities that Israel was behind anti-government protests in Algeria at the time.
Amnesty International said it had reviewed court documents that list the posts as evidence against Touati and that it had found “no incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred.”
“Rather, his posts were covered by freedom of expression in relation to his work as a citizen-journalist,” the rights group said in a statement.
Touati was sentenced on Thursday by a court in Bejaia, east of the capital Algiers.
He has 10 days to appeal the verdict, according to Algerian law.


Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

Updated 9 min 42 sec ago
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Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

  • The rocket hit Burjeisa residential and operations headquarters west of Basra
  • Police said the rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile

BASRA: A rocket landed at the headquarters for several global major oil companies, including US giant ExxonMobil, near Iraq’s southern city of Basra early on Wednesday, wounding two Iraqi workers, police said.

The rocket hit the Burjesia residential and operations headquarters west of the city, they said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

A security source said Exxon was preparing to evacuate some 20 foreign staff immediately.

Other companies operating at the site include Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Italian Eni SpA, oil officials said.

Police said the rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile that landed 100 meters from the section of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon.

Burjesia is near the Zubair oilfield operated by Eni.

Exxon evacuated staff last month after the United States cited unspecified threats from Iran for a decision to take hundreds of diplomatic staff out of Iraq.

Exxon had begun returning staff to Iraq, however, before Wednesday’s incident.

(developing)