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Politics | Society | Human rights

Algerian right activist jailed

afrol News, 29 October - An instrumental Algerian activists, who heads Relizane de la Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l'Homme (LADDH), was on Friday convicted and sentenced to two months in prison after he was found guilty of libel.

The court has also fined Mohamed Smain to pay 5,000 and 10, 000 dinars as damage fee to each of the nine complainants he had accused of committing grave human rights crimes in Algeria.

But he was acquitted on charges of defamation and insult. The current verdict was exactly the same as the one imposed on him on 5 January 2002.

At the 20 October 2007 hearing At the hearing, Rélizane court entertain testimonies from the defence witnesses who included relatives of missing persons.

Smain’s trial started after he had alerted the Algerian press on the discovery and exhumation of mass graves. He accused the gendarmerie and the militia loyal to Hadj Fergane, the former Mayor of Rélizane [West of Algeria] on 3 February 2001 of committing extra-judicial, summary executions, disappearance and torture, among other crimes.

Fergane and eight other former self-defence militia sued Smain for libel, contempt and character assassination at Rélizane court.

After appealing the 5 January verdict, the Rélizane court levied a more harsh sentence on him on 24 February 2002 when he was sentenced to a year in prison and fined 21,000 dinars.

Smain had filed an appeal at the supreme court on the grounds that he was denied a fair trial.

The trial of Mohamed Smain is described as an exemplary of the looming climate of impunity prevailing in Algeria.

During the North African country’s bloody civil war in the 90s, at least 7,200 persons have disappeared. Right defenders have since been sacrificing to secure justice and truth for families of human rights victims. Threatened by his call for the perpetrators to be identified and punished for their crimes, Smain had himself had become a victim of human rights abuse.

In a communique, a joint observatory mission of the World Organisation Against Torture and the Fédération Internationale des ligues des Sroits de l'Homme, condemned the latest verdict, describing it as further “obstacles to Smain’s work to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It is also viewed as yet another attempt to deny the families of Relizane and Oran from sourcing information as how and why their loved ones died.

A recognised human rights activist, Smain had helped several international NGOs during their fact-finding missions in Algeria.

While calling on the Algerian authorities to at all times comply with the international instruments on the protection of human rights, the mission has at the same time lodged a complaint at the United Nations and the AU Special Rapporteurs on human rights.

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