Algerian journalist who covered protests handed 3-year jail term

Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni is carried by protesters in this file photo. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2020

Algerian journalist who covered protests handed 3-year jail term

  • The Algerian judiciary has stepped up prosecutions and convictions of journalists, Hirak activists, political opponents and bloggers in recent months

ALGIERS: Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni received a three-year prison term Monday in a trial rights groups have called a test of press freedom in a country recently rocked by anti-government protests.

“It’s a very heavy verdict for Khaled Drareni. We are surprised, the case is hollow,” lawyer and president of the Algerian League for Human Rights Nouredine Benissad told AFP.
Drareni, 40, editor of the Casbah Tribune news site and correspondent for French-language channel TV5 Monde, was arrested on March 29 on charges of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity” after covering demonstrations by the “Hirak” protest movement.
The Hirak protests last year swept ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power but continued afterwards, demanding the ouster of the entire state apparatus.
Weekly protests rocked Algeria for more than a year and only came to a halt in March due to the novel coronavirus crisis.
Two co-accused in the trial, Hirak protesters Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche, were sentenced to two years’ jail each, said Benissad, a lawyer with the defense team which plans to appeal the sentences.
Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), for which Drareni also works, condemned the sentence against him as “arbitrary, absurd and violent.”
“This is clearly a judicial persecution against a journalist who is the honor of his country,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

FASTFACT

A gaunt-looking Khaled Drareni denied the charges when he appeared via video conference due to coronavirus measures.

The prosecutor had called for Drareni to be sentenced to four years in prison, fined and stripped of his civil rights at the opening of his trial at the Sidi M’hamed court in Algiers on August 3.
A gaunt-looking Drareni denied the charges when he appeared via video conference due to coronavirus measures.
“I just did my job as an independent journalist,” he said, according to an RSF statement, arguing he had exercised his “right to inform as a journalist and citizen.”
RSF, part of an international support committee for Drareni, had earlier said that “a prison sentence would be proof of a shift to authoritarianism” in the North African country.
The Algerian judiciary has stepped up prosecutions and convictions of journalists, Hirak activists, political opponents and bloggers in recent months.
Some journalists have been accused of sowing discord, threatening national interests and being on the payroll of “foreign parties,” with several in prison and trials under way.
In July, Ali Djamel Toubal, a correspondent for the privately owned media group Ennahar, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for, among other things, broadcasting footage showing police officers mistreating anti-regime demonstrators.


Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

In this May 24, 2015 file photo Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, center, applauds after Chelsea were presented with the Premier League trophy after the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London. (AP)
Updated 16 min 16 sec ago

Chelsea FC owner funded Israeli settler organization: BBC

  • Abramovich gave over $100m to Elad, which operates in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, over roughly 15 years
  • Russian oligrach’s money used to fund evictions of Palestinians from their homes

LONDON: Companies controlled by Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, have donated over $100 million to an Israeli settler organization carrying out activity illegal under international law in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a BBC News Arabic investigation.

The Russian oligarch donated the money to Elad, which also runs a tourism business in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, through offshore companies held in the British Virgin Islands.

Shahar Shilo, Elad’s former marketing director, said its strategy is using tourism “to create a different political reality” in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood.

The information emerged as a result of Buzzfeed’s Fincen Files leak, which released a deluge of secret financial information held by banks about many companies.

The leaked documents show that donations from four companies held in the British Virgin Islands made up nearly half of Elad’s entire donations from 2005 to 2018.

Abramovich was listed as the owner of three of those companies, and had a controlling stake in the fourth. This makes him the largest donor to Elad in the last 15 years.

A spokesman for Abramovich told the BBC that the oligarch “is a committed and generous supporter of Israeli and Jewish civil society, and over the past 20 years he has donated over $500 million to support health care, science, education and Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.”

Abramovich’s funds were used by Elad to purchase Palestinian homes in Silwan and strengthen the presence of Jewish settlers there.

The BBC also found that his donations were used to fund and campaign for the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighborhood.

One such family is the Sumarins, who live in a home adjacent to Elad’s visitor center. They have been fighting a long-running legal battle with a Zionist group that is trying to take over their home.

Elad pays all the group’s legal costs associated with the case, which will go to Israel’s Supreme Court in April 2021.

Mohammed Dahle, the Sumarin family’s lawyer for 10 years, said: “The probability of the survival of a Palestinian property, after it’s been declared that it’s a Jewish or Israeli property ... is most likely zero.”