High-profile Algerian journalist Ihsane El Kadi has been sentenced to three years in prison by the Sidi M’Hamed court in Algiers, which has accused him of “foreign financing of his business”, AFP reported.
El Kadi, who owns one of the few independent media groups in the country and is critical of the government, was given a sentence of five years, three of which he must serve in jail, the court ruled on Sunday.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
In addition, the court ruled that Interface Media, which operates Maghreb Emergent and the other outlet El Kadi runs, Radio M, should be dissolved. The court levied a number of fines on the company and on El Kadi himself totalling 11.7 million Algerian dinars ($86,200).
The journalist was first arrested on December 24 and has been detained since then under a state security law that prohibits the receiving of funds that threaten state security or “national unity”, the news website he directs, Maghreb Emergent, had said at the time.
Interface Media had its headquarters sealed off and its documents seized following the journalist’s arrest.
“We are going to appeal this judgement within the required timeframe,” Abdelghani Badi, one of El Kadi’s lawyers who boycotted the hearing, told AFP.
El Kadi’s defence team had dismissed the foreign funding charges, pointing out that the only foreign transfer to El Kadi’s company had been from his daughter who lives in the United Kingdom and who had transferred 25,000 British pounds ($31,000) to the company, in which she is a partner.
El Kadi’s arrest has been condemned by human rights organisations like Amnesty International and journalists’ rights groups from Reporters Without Borders to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
A petition calling for his release was signed by thousands of people.
CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour had in December called El Kadi’s arrest an affront to independent media in Algeria, calling for authorities to “cease their harassment of the press”.
“By arresting journalist Ihsane El Kadi and shutting down Radio M and Maghreb Emergent, Algerian authorities are attacking some of the last independent voices in the country,” Mansour said.