The Algerian prosecutor general filed a complaint with the Algiers court against young blogger Tareq Memari for inciting violence and calling for mass protests. Memari was arrested shortly thereafter.
Memari, who could face up to three years in jail if found guilty, had posted a video on You Tube right before the recent parliamentary elections. In the video, Memari addressed Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and complained of the rising rates of unemployment amongst the youth. He told the president that he is boycotting the elections and called upon Algerian youth to do the youths.
Memari then got out his voting card and burnt it in front of the camera ─ an act which drove the prosecutor general to ask for his arrest.
According to Amin Sidhom, coordinator of the Lawyers’ Network for the Defense of Human Rights and Memari’s lawyer, the accusations leveled at his client are all fabricated and his client’s actions are a normal reaction to government policies.
“Because citizens’ freedom is repressed and they are deprived of voicing their opinions through regular media, they resort to online means like what Memari did when he addressed the president from You Tube,” he told Al Arabiya.
The action of burning the voting card, Sidhom added, is not punishable by law.
“This is his own card and he has the right to do with it as he pleases. Plus, what he did was a symbolic action to voice his discontent.”
Memari also faces charges for tearing down election posters which, Sidhom noted, does not imply insulting any government institution like the complaint claims.
“This does not even insult the Elections Commission.”
As for calling upon Algerians to protest, Sidhom pointed out that this is only a charge in “uncivilized” countries.
“In all civilized countries, citizens have the right to protest and cannot be prosecuted for doing so.”
Memari was released pending trial shortly after he was arrested and following a massive campaign launched by his supporters and friends on social networking websites. His court hearing is scheduled for June 27.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)