Algerian journalist and human rights defender Anouar Rahmani may spend up to two years in prison for his social media posts, criticizing high-level government officials.
The independent writer is an advocate for environmental right, individual freedoms and as well the rights of minority groups like the LGBT+ community.
His advocacy however took a turn for the worst at the start of the year when he was arrested and questioned over his political and religious views as well as that of his family.
According to Rahmani, he received a police summons on January 8 2020 and reported to the Tipaza police station 5 days later.
There he was interrogated about his social media posts supporting the Hirak movement and denouncing what he described as the military’s grip on power.
A picture in which he mocked some government officials as well as his call for a boycott of the December 2019 presidential election also came up during interrogation.
Rahmani was then charged with “insulting the president of the Republic” and “harming state security” after which he was released.
Judgement will be delivered on February 17, 2020 and if convicted, he could spend up to 2 years’ in prison.
In 2017, Anouar Rahmani was the subject of investigation after he was accused of blasphemy.
The religious and moral offence charges emanated from two books he authored titled Jibril’s Hallucination and The City of White Shadows.
In ‘The City of White Shadows,’ Rahmani depicts a gay romance between an Algerian freedom fighter and a French settler in the 1960’s.
A chapter of ‘Jibril’s Hallucination’ where a child converses with a homeless and delirious man who calls himself God sparked controversy with some taking strong exception to the depiction if God in the Novel.
Though 2017 case is pending, Rahmani has been banned from contributing to national newspapers and has had his workshops and conferences cancelled following pressure from authorities.
Reports also indicate that his family has been frequently harassed by the authorities as a result of his human rights activities.
The Hirak Movement
The movement also called the 2019–20 Algerian protests and the Revolution of Smiles began in February 2019 after Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced a fifth term bid.
Every week tens of thousands of Algerians including Anouar Rahmani hit the streets in what was largely peaceful demonstrations, demanding democratic transition and the rule of law.
Reports indicate the protests were expected to eventually die down, however despite the December 2019 election which saw President Bouteflika re-elected, the protests continue, crossing the one year mark.
Groups like Human Rights Watch and PEN International have been vocal about the arrests and treatment of Anouar Rahmani describing it a violation of his rights and freedoms and have demanded all charges against him be dropped without delay.
There have also been several movements on social media in support of Rahmani’s cause as all eyes look to Judgement day, February 17.