Algerian blogger Merzoug Touati

An Algerian blogger was convicted of a long list of ridiculous offenses after he interviewed an Israeli official.

By: JNS and United with Israel Staff

An Algerian blogger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 50,000 Algerian dinar (approximately USD $430) for interviewing an Israeli official.

Merzoug Touati was convicted on Thursday of “incitement to non-armed gathering,” “foreign intelligence aiming at harming diplomatic ties,” and “incitement to gatherings and sit-ins in public spaces” by an Algerian court. The 30-year-old has already filed an appeal.

Touati was arrested in January 2017 for conducting an online video interview via Facebook with an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman and for calling on Algerians to protest a new financial law.

The interview was conducted with Hassan Kaabia, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson for Arabic-speaking media. Kaabia disputed accusations by the Algerian authorities that the Israeli authorities were involved in protests in Algeria.

While the released video is largely about reforms to Algerian financial laws, The Annahar, an Algerian newspaper, came out with an article titled: “The blogger’s case exposes an international network to recruit Algerians to the Mossad.” The article included a map claiming to list Touati’s connections in Israel and asserted that Touati aimed to undermine the stability of Algeria.

A followup article allegedly quoted Touati admitting to being in contact with the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, and said he was gathering information on Jewish property in Algeria for Israel as well as managing a page to recruit Algerians to the Mossad on Facebook.

Touti has denied providing any information to Israel, asserting that his interview was within his constitutional rights.

The court dropped three charges of incitement against the state, which could have handed him a death penalty sentence.

Amnesty: ‘Utterly shocking’ Verdict

The verdict has been condemned by Amnesty International as “utterly shocking” and contrary to freedom of speech, and by Reporters Without Borders as “disproportionate and unjustified.”

“It is utterly shocking that the Algerian authorities have imposed such a heavy sentence on someone solely for expressing his peaceful opinion online,” Amnesty stated.

Like many Arab and Muslim countries, Algeria does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Additionally, a wave a pro-Palestinian sentiment has engulfed the country in recent years, including a number of solidarity marches for the Palestinians.

In 2014, Algeria ranked fourth on a list of the world’s most anti-Semitic countries published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Algeria, which once had 140,000 Jews, has barely any today.

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Source: United with Israel