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Algerian blogger gets suspended jail term

2012-06-27 14:10

Algiers - An Algerian court on Wednesday slapped an eight-month suspended prison sentence and a $1 250 fine on a blogger who had called for a boycott of the 10 May 10 legislative election.

The Algiers court found Tarek Mameri, 23, guilty of destroying property, setting administrative documents on fire and inciting public gatherings.

The young blogger was initially detained on 2 May for posting videos on his blog calling for a boycott of last month's parliamentary election.

State prosecution had sought a three-year prison sentence earlier this month.

"This sentence is directed at all human rights activists. We are going to appeal and undertake all the necessary moves to have this decision overturned," Mameri's lawyer Amine Sidhom told AFP.

The young blogger never denied the charges brought against him.

"Yes, I destroyed electoral placards and burned my voter's card... I opted to do that rather than immolate myself," the young blogger told the state prosecutor last month.

More people have set fire to themselves in Algeria than in neighbouring Tunisia, where the death of a fruit vendor who set himself on fire in December 2010 to protest against poverty and dictatorship ignited a historic uprising.

Critics of last month's election say the victory of the National Liberation Front, the former single party that has dominated Algerian politics for half a century, was never in doubt.

Other contenders in the election were widely seen either as bogus parties recently founded to create an illusion of democracy or older parties co-opted by the regime.

Many Algerians opted to boycott the vote as a way of protesting the status quo in the oil-rich north African nation at a time when the Arab Spring was bringing sweeping political change to other countries in the region.

Official election results put the turnout at 43 percent, a figure that opposition parties and experts argued was grossly inflated.

An Algerian court last month sentenced a Yemeni Salafist imam to six months in jail, a $1 300 fine and a 10-year ban on visiting Algeria for having issued a religious edict urging voters to boycott the election.