Algerian protester sentenced to three years for posting satirical memes

An Algerian supporter of Hirak’s protest movement was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday for satirical social media that mocked the government and religion, a campaign group said.

Walid Kechida, 25, was accused of insulting President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and “insulting Islamic law” in Internet memos and other online posts, said Kaci Tansaout, of the CNLD Prisoners’ Rights Group.

“Unfortunately, Walid Kechida was sentenced to three years in prison with a fine,” Tansaout said, adding that lawyers would appeal.

Attorney Moumen Chadi confirmed the verdict.

The prosecutor in Algeria’s northeastern Setif province had demanded a five-year sentence and Kechida has already spent eight months in custody awaiting trial.

Algerian authorities have arrested and prosecuted several activists in an attempt to stop Hirak’s protesters.

CNLD says that more than 90 people, including activists, social media users and journalists, are currently in custody in connection with the country’s anti-government protest movement or individual freedoms – mostly for dissenting posts on social media.

Last week, Tebboune signed Algeria’s new constitution into law, a change that the government hopes will turn the page on the long-running Hirak mass protest movement.

Hirak first launched major street demonstrations in early 2019 to oppose then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.

Following his resignation in April, Hirak kept up the pressure to demand a complete overhaul of the ruling system that had been in place since the 1962 independence of the North African nation from France.

A referendum in November to approve the constitutional changes was supported by less than 15 percent of voters, in a vote overshadowed by the new coronavirus pandemic and Hirak calling for a boycott.