The prosecutor of the Court of Appeal in Constantine, eastern Algeria, on Thursday (October 19th) called for tougher sentences for a researcher and a journalist who have been imprisoned for nearly eight months, the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD) announced.
Raouf Farrah, a 36-year-old Algerian-Canadian researcher, and Mustapha Bendjama, a 32-year-old journalist, were sentenced in August to two years in prison each. The two men had appealed their convictions, hoping they could be acquitted, but on Thursday, the prosecutor "requested the aggravation of the sentences," the CNLD reported on its Facebook page. "The matter is reserved for October 26," the committee added.
Proof of contacts
The two men were prosecuted for, among other things, "publishing information and documents the content of which is classified as partially or entirely secret, on an electronic network or other technological means of the media". Raouf Farrah was also convicted of "receiving funds from foreign or domestic institutions with the intention of committing acts that could undermine public order". For the same reason, his father Sebti, 67, was given a one-year suspended sentence.
Mustapha Bendjama was arrested on 8 February at the offices of the French-language newspaper Le Provincial, based in the eastern city of Annaba, of which he is the editor-in-chief. According to lawyers and media reports, the security services found evidence of contacts between Mustapha Bendjama, Raouf Farrah, others and the anti-corruption NGO Global Integrity Index (GII) on his phone.
Before the judge, Mustapha Bendjama explained that he had compiled, on behalf of GII, "a report setting out 54 socio-economic indicators in return for 1500 dollars". This one-off collaboration had been entrusted to him by Raouf Farrah. Since Bendjama did not have a foreign currency account, the money had been paid into Farrah's account, who had the $1500,14 converted into dinars handed over to Bendjama. He admitted in court that he had violated foreign exchange regulations. Raouf Farrah, a researcher analyst with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), was arrested on <> February.