Algeria journalist charged with foreign 'intel' links: watchdog

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Algiers - An Algerian freelance journalist and fixer has been indicted on accusations of intelligence contacts with a foreign power, press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Monday.

Said Chitour, who has worked for the BBC and the Washington Post among others, faces up to life in prison if he is convicted for allegedly passing confidential documents to foreign diplomats.

A court in the Algiers district of Bir Mourad Rais agreed to a request by prosecutors that Chitour be tried, RSF said. "The case has been referred to a criminal court."

Intelligence services arrested Chitour at Algiers airport on June 5, RSF said.

In September, it said he had been held for 100 days without any charge being brought.

He is to be tried under a law that punishes anyone who collects information "likely to be harmful to national defence or the national economy" with the intention of passing it to a foreign power, defence lawyer Khaled Bourayou said.

RSF said it was "appalled" by the news of his indictment.

"As his lawyers say the prosecution still has absolutely no evidence against him, we condemn yesterday's decision and we continue to call for his release," it said.

It said he is diabetic, has lost 20 kilos since his arrest, and that "his family and colleagues are very worried about his health".

RSF, which ranks Algeria 134rd out of 180 countries on its press freedom index, charged in June that the North African country used "harassment" and "threats" to pressure journalists.

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