Today, Thursday, the Court of Appeal in Constantine, Algeria, reduced the prison sentences issued against Algerian journalist Mustafa Ben Jemaa and Algerian-Canadian researcher Raouf Farah from two years to 20 months, including 8 fixed months, according to his lawyer.
“Raouf will be released immediately,” Kasila Zerkin told AFP, explaining that Mr. Bendjima, who has “another case under consideration,” will learn his fate “on October 31.”
The lawyer stressed that for the other defendants, who were imprisoned for eight months, the appeal “had the sentences issued to eight months fixed and 12 months suspended.”
However, Mr. Farah’s lawyer announced the filing of a “cassation appeal” with the aim of “proving the innocence” of his client. According to him, the researcher can “leave Algeria as normally as possible on Thursday” and return to Tunisia where he “lived for four years” with his Canadian wife and their four-year-old daughter.
In August, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) researcher Mr. Farah, 36, and his journalist friend Bendjima, 32, were sentenced to two years in prison.
They appealed in hopes of being acquitted, but last week, on appeal, the prosecution asked for increased sentences.
They were convicted of “publishing information and documents whose contents are classified, partially or completely, on an electronic network or other technological media.”
Mr. Farah was also convicted of “receiving funds from foreign or local institutions with the intention of committing acts that would undermine public order.” For this reason, his father, Sabti (67 years old), was given a one-year suspended prison sentence.
Raouf Farah was arrested on February 14 at his parents’ home in Annaba (east).
According to many lawyers and media outlets, the case began when the security services were able to access Mustafa Ben Jemaa’s phone after his arrest on February 8 at the headquarters of the Annaba-based newspaper Le Provincial, of which he is editor-in-chief.
He was suspected of having helped French-Algerian activist Amira Bouraoui leave Algeria via Tunisia two days earlier, when she was prevented from leaving.
The “Bouraoui case”, which Algeria described as “illegal smuggling”, caused a diplomatic dispute with France.
Mustafa Benjama was one of the key elements in Annaba in the pro-democracy protest movement in 2019.
An analysis of the journalist’s phone showed that there were communications between M.M. Bendjima and Farah as well as the anti-corruption NGO Global Integrity Index (GII).
The journalist explained before the judge that, on behalf of the Gulf International Institute and at the request of his friend, the researcher, he prepared “a report that includes 54 social and economic indicators in exchange for $1,500.”
According to media reports, investigators confused the term economic “indicator” with the term “indicator” used by the police for people who provide them with information.
Mr. Bendjima did not have a foreign currency account, the money was paid into the account of Mr. Farah, who converted the amount into dinars given to Mr. Bendjima, thus violating exchange regulations to which Mr. Bendjima admitted.