Mohamed Tamalt, a journalist with British and Algerian citizenship is reported to be critically ill after going on hunger strike in an Algerian jail.
Tamalt, 42, who has dual nationality and had been living in Britain before his imprisonment, is serving a two-year sentence for insulting President Bouteflika on Facebook. He was arrested on June 27 while visiting relatives in Algeria. His Facebook page, which was generally critical of the Algerian regime, included a video recitation of a poem which the authorities considered insulting to the 79-year-old president.
He first appeared in court on June 28, charged with “offending the president” and “defaming a public authority”. Under Algeria's penal code neither of these "crimes" can be punished with a prison sentence – only fines – but the judge nevertheless ordered him to be detained while awaiting a full trial.
On July 4 the court rejected an application for bail – prompting his lawyers to walk out in protest.
On July 11 the authorities added a further charge of "offence against a public official" which, unlike the two previous charges, can be punished with imprisonment. Tamalat was then tried and convicted on the same day and sentenced to the maximum penalty of two years imprisonment, plus a fine of 200,000 dinars (about $1,800).
It is to be hoped that Britain's foreign secretary (and former journalist) Boris Johnson will be making representations to Algeria regarding this case. Readers may recall that earlier this year Boris won a prize for composing the most offensive poem about Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn't even stop to thankera.