December 12, 2016
ALGIERS - A British-Algerian journalist died Sunday after having staged 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" that followed, 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 Dec 4. He had been in hospital since the end of Aug.
Tamalt, a dual national, launched the hunger strike on the day of his arrest near his parents' house in the capital Algiers on June 27, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
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 to two years in prison on July 11 and fined him 200,000 dinars (US$1,800), and an appeals court upheld the ruling a month later.
Amnesty International urged Algerian authorities on Sunday to open an "independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances" of the journalist's death.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), for its part, said it was "shocked" by Tamalt's death which had dealt a blow to freedom of information in Algeria.
"Why was there such a conviction just for words on Facebook which did no harm to anyone?" asked Yasmine Kacha, head of the North Africa department of RSF.
The New York-based HRW had urged Algerian authorities to release him in Aug when he was reportedly in critical condition. - AFP
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