After Two Months on Hunger Strike, Jailed Algerian Journalist Enters Coma

Mohamed Tamalt. Image from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (CC BY-NC-ND)

Mohamed Tamalt. Image from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Algerian columnist and blogger Mohamed Tamalt, who is serving two years in prison for insulting the country's president, has gone into a coma. Tamalt has reportedly been on hunger strike since 27 June in protest at his arrest and imprisonment by Algerian authorities.

On 30 August, Sirine Rached, a North Africa researcher with Amnesty international, quoted local news site El Watan:

Journalist Mohamed Tamalt, sentenced to two years in jail for criticizing the authorities, is in coma

On 11 July, a court in the capital Algiers sentenced Tamalt to two years in jail and a fine of 200,000 Algerian dinars (about US $1,800) for offending President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and public institutions under articles 144, 144 bis and 146 of the Penal Code over his online publications, including a poem and a video posted on Facebook containing comments that were deemed disparaging towards Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

Tamalt was imprisoned over his online publications including a poem deemed insulting to the President. Source: Tamalt's Facebook page

Tamalt was imprisoned over his online publications including the above poem, which was deemed insulting to the President. Source: Tamalt's Facebook page

On social media and his online magazine Arab Context, Tamalt comments on current affairs in Algeria, including the role of the army in political life, alleged corruption among government officials and army generals, and the extravagant lifestyles of Algeria's rulers and their families. Tamalt, who also has British nationality, has been mostly living in the UK since 2002 after leaving Algeria because of reported threats related to his work as a journalist. A court of appeal confirmed his sentence on 9 August. According to Amnesty International, his lawyers filed another appeal to the Cassation Court, the highest court in Algeria.

In recent months, Algerian authorities have handed down several sentences against users for expressing themselves online. In late May, labor rights activist Belkacem Khencha was sentenced to six months in jail for posting a video on Facebook slamming the imprisonment of a colleague, while in March human rights activist Zoulikha Belarbi was ordered to pay 100,000 Algerian dinars (around US $1,000) for posting a satirical photo of the president on Facebook.

Hunger strikes of this length regularly end with a person's death. The graphic below, created by Visualizing Impact, outlines the experience of a person on hunger strike over time, drawing on research from Forensic Science International, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal.



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