Algerian jailed for filming police 'theft'

2014-06-10 19:50
Algerian security forces stand guard on a ridge looking down on the Algerian city of Ghardaia during an operation to secure the city following sectarian clashes.  (Farouk Batiche,  AFP)

Algerian security forces stand guard on a ridge looking down on the Algerian city of Ghardaia during an operation to secure the city following sectarian clashes. (Farouk Batiche, AFP)

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Algiers - Algeria jailed a man for two years on Monday for posting a video of policemen stealing in the desert region of Ghardaia, during ethnic violence that erupted late last year.

Youcef Ouled Dada was found guilty of "publishing photographs and videos which harm the national interest" and "contempt of the authorities".

The 47-year-old was also ordered to pay a fine of €930, one of his lawyers, Amine Sidhoum, told AFP, adding he would appeal.

Prosecutors had sought three years for Dada, a computer technician and member of the Berber Mozabite community in the ethnically divided Ghardaia region who has been detained since March.

Another of his lawyers, Abderahmane Saleh, said Dada was accused of filming "three policeman as they were stealing in Grara" municipality "taking advantage of the riots" that broke out in December.

Dada denies making the video or posting it on the internet, insisting he only shared it on Facebook.

Ghardaia has been the scene of sectarian violence between the region's indigenous Mozabites and the Arabs, known as Chaambas, that have killed at least nine people and wounded more than 400 in the past six months.

In a bid to restore order, some 10 000 police were deployed in March around the main streets of Ghardaia, the regional capital, which lies about 600km south of Algiers.

Sidhoum, one of Dada's lawyers, called Tuesday's ruling "harsh" and said it would do nothing to calm the situation.

"In this trial, instead of investigating the reality of the facts, the person being denounced is prosecuted," he said.

Ghardaia's two communities have lived together for centuries, but tensions spiked when vandals destroyed a historic Berber shrine in late December.

Hundreds of houses and shops in the city, which is a Unesco world heritage site, were also burned down in the unrest.

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