Algerian activist gets 10 years in prison for 'inciting atheism'

Yacine Mebarki was also fined 10 million Algerian dinars ($77,400) after police found a Quran with a missing page in his home.

al-monitor Algerian journalists gather in protest to demand the release of their colleague Khaled Drareni, who was sentenced earlier this month to three years in jail for "inciting an unarmed gathering" and "endangering national unity," in the capital Algiers on Aug. 24, 2020. Photo by RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images.

Topics covered

journalism in the middle east, political prisoners, hirak, algerian protests, atheism

Oct 12, 2020

An Algerian activist received 10 years in prison for "inciting atheism" and insulting Islam, a sentence rights groups say is the longest yet for participants in the anti-government protests that erupted last year. 

Yacine Mebarki, 52, was also convicted of “undermining national unity” and fined 10 million Algerian dinars ($77,400). He was arrested on Sept. 30 at his home in the eastern city of Khenchela. 

“His wrongdoing? Police found a time-worn old Quran from his father with one page missing,” tweeted Said Salhi, vice president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights.

Mebarki’s sentence is so far the longest for any members of the the largely peaceful protest movement known as Hirak. The leaderless protests erupted in February 2019 when 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his plan to run for a fifth term. Millions of protesters succeeded in forcing the resignation of the longtime president and other members of the county’s political elite.  

Weekly Hirak demonstrations continued until the government banned them in March, citing coronavirus concerns. Despite the ban, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital Algiers on Monday, and were met with arrests. 

According to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees, a rights group that tracks prisoners of conscience, more than 60 people, including journalists, are imprisoned in connection with the protest movement. 

In an effort to appease the pro-democracy protesters, the Algerian government has approved a Nov. 1 referendum on constitutional reform. 

This story contains reporting from AFP.

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