Detained Algerian political activist Abdallah Benaoum’s life is at risk as he is in urgent need of heart surgery. Benaoum, 55, has been detained since 9 December 2019 for Facebook posts in which he criticized the contested 2019 Algerian elections and the repression of the Hirak pro-reform movement. He is currently detained in Oran prison. Due to his vulnerable health, he has not been physically capable of meeting his lawyers or family. The judges unjustly rejected multiple requests for provisional release filed by his lawyers despite his deteriorating health. His next trial session is scheduled for 27 October.
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President of the Republic of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune
Présidence de la république
Place Mohammed Seddik Benyahia, El Mouradia, Alger
Fax: +213 02169 15 95
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Madjid Bouguerra
Embassy of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
2118 Kalorama Rd. NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 265 2800 I Fax: 202 986 5906
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
On 27 September 2020, the lawyers of political activist Abdallah Benaoum made yet another request for his transfer to hospital, following the rapid deterioration of his health in prison, which puts his life at risk. They have not received an answer to date. Adballah Benaoum is suffering from clogged arteries and his lawyers submitted a first request for provisional release in April 2020, which was rejected. The judge justified the rejection by the serious nature of the “crimes” he is accused of, which refer only to Facebook posts critical of the authorities. His posts on Facebook did not include any incitement to violence and were therefore fully protected by his right to freedom of expression.
On 12 May, Benaoum’s cardiologist examined him and concluded that he is in urgent need of a second heart surgery. On 7 June, his lawyers submitted a request for him to be transferred to hospital to no avail. A few days later, the authorities transferred him from Belasal prison in Relizane to a small prison in Gdyel, a town in the governorate of Oran, 160 km from his place of residence, where there were no medical facilities available. The lawyers submitted another request on 21 June which led to another transfer to Oran prison where Benaoum remained until his trial on 16 July. He was yet again transferred back to Oran prison where he remains to date.
During the trial on 16 July, Benaoum was visibly ill. His lawyers asked for an adjournment, but the judge continued with normal trial procedures for an hour before having a doctor examine Benaoum and confirm that he was not fit to stand trial. The hearing was suspended but the judge refused a request for provisional release and sent Benaoum back to jail. His lawyers filed another request for provisional release on 2 September, which was again denied.
I call on you to drop all charges against Abdallah Benaoum and ensure that he is immediately and unconditionally released as he is being detained solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. In the meantime, he must be transferred without further delay to a medical facility where he can receive the urgent medical treatment prescribed by his cardiologist. In the current context of COVID-19, his heart condition puts him at increased risk according to the World Health Organization and the authorities must take all measures to protect his life.