Algeria: Demand for the release of the journalist Ihsane El Kadi

Press release
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Zoheir Aberkane / Radio M

Paris-Geneva, 30 March 2023. Three days before the verdict in the trial of journalist Ihsane El Kadi, who has been arbitrarily detained in Algeria for three months, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)), EuroMed Rights and MENA call on the Algerian authorities to end his judicial harassment and to release him immediately. An observer sent by the Observatory attended Ihsane El Kadi’s most recent hearing and confirmed that his rights were being violated and that there was political interference in a justice system that is in the pay of the authorities.

Ihsane El Kadi potentially faces up to seven years’ imprisonment. The second hearing of his trial took place on 26 March 2023 before the Sidi M’hamed Court in Algiers. He is charged with ‘receiving foreign and domestic financing and assets in order to conduct activities detrimental to the security and stability of the State, the normal functioning of its institutions, public order […]’. During the hearing, the Prosecutor called for Mr El Khadi to be sentenced to five years in prison and banned from working as a director in the media. The verdict is due to be announced on 2 April 2023.

Ihsane El Kadi is a founding member and director of the editorial unit of online radio station Radio M and of the information website Maghreb Émergent, two independent media outlets. A staunch defender of freedom of expression in Algeria and the countries of North Africa, on several occasions he has voiced his support for the peaceful, pro-democracy movement Hirak, and in the past has been condemned for having been openly critical of the regime.

Ihsane El Kadi was detained on 24 December 2022. The premises of the Interface Médias agency, the company that edits the two independent media outlets, had an extra-judicial closure order imposed the following day. After years of intimidation of the journalists working there and systematic legal proceedings brought against them, the closure order was imposed before any enquiry was even officially launched. Following his arrest, Ihsane El Kadi was directly targeted by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who accused him on public television channels of being a khabardji (an infamous populist expression in the Algerian language used to designate an ‘informer’ or ‘snitch’ who collaborates with the enemy). This accusation, which does not appear anywhere in the case file, constitutes unacceptable interference by the head of the country’s executive in the functioning of the constitutionally independent justice system and an inadmissible violation of judicial impartiality.

"The ordeal undergone by Ihsane El Khadi, his harassment by the Algerian authorities and the attempts at intimidation only serve to show that the Algerian regime is cornered and panicking, caught in a downward spiral towards authoritarianism. Regimes which resort to repression are weak and at a terminal stage," declared Aissa Rahmoune, FIDH Vice President.

A trial tainted with irregularities

An international observer commissioned by the FIDH-OMCT Observatory managed to attend the hearing on 26 March 2023 to document potential violations of Ihsane El Kadi’s rights. During the hearing, the observer noted that, despite the presence of Mr El Kadi in the courtroom, he was not given the time needed to comment on his case file.

At the first hearing on 12 March 2023, the court had decided to conduct the trial by videoconference without informing either the accused or his lawyers in advance. Defence counsel rejected this method of proceeding and requested that the hearing be postponed so that Mr El Kadi could attend in person. The judge finally ordered a postponement of the trial to 26 March, without pursuing the defence’s claims but instead referring to the absence of several witnesses and of the representative from the Algerian Audio-visual Regulatory Authority (ARAV). ARAV constitutes the civil party against the editorial company of Radio M and Maghreb Émergent, despite both cited media outlets not being legally answerable to this body. Numerous other irregularities were noted by the defence lawyers throughout the proceedings.

"The task of judicial observation carried out by the Observatory highlighted the violations of Ihsane El Kadi’s right to due process throughout the proceedings against him. The Algerian authorities must comply with their international commitments in this regard and must release the journalist immediately," said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of OMCT.

The signatory organisations condemn the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ihsane El Kadi and call on the Algerian authorities to release him immediately and to cease all proceedings against him.

The remit of the Observatory, a partnership between FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), is to protect human rights defenders whose rights are violated and to provide them with support that is as practical as possible. OMCT and FIDH are members of, the European Union mechanism for human rights defenders instigated by international civil society.

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