Algerian jailed over Facebook poem dies

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A British-Algerian jour­nal­ist died yes­ter­day three months into a hunger strike to protest a two-year jail term for of­fend­ing Al­ge­ria’s pres­i­dent in a poem posted on­line, his lawyer said. “I can con­firm the death of the jour­nal­ist Mo­hamed Ta­malt in Bab el-Oued hospi­tal af­ter a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma,” Amine Sid­houm said on Facebook.

The prison ser­vice, in a state­ment said Ta­malt had died of a lung in­fec­tion for which he was re­ceiv­ing treat­ment since it was de­tected on De­cem­ber 4. Ta­malt, a dual na­tional, launched the hunger strike in protest af­ter his ar­rest near his par­ents’ house in the cap­i­tal Algiers on June 27. The 42-year-old blog­ger and free­lance jour­nal­ist who ran a web­site from Lon­don where he lived was charged with “of­fend­ing” Pres­i­dent Ab­de­laziz Boute­flika and “de­fam­ing a pub­lic au­thor­ity” in the poem which he shared on Facebook. A court in Algiers sen­tenced him two years in prison on July 11 and fined him 200,000 di­nars ($1,800), and an ap­peals court up­held the rul­ing a month later.

Hu­man Rights Watch had urged Algerian au­thor­i­ties to re­lease him in Au­gust when he was re­port­edly in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. “The Algerian au­thor­i­ties should quash the case against Ta­malt and send the mes­sage that free speech will be re­spected in Al­ge­ria,” it said at the time.

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