Urgent Action Update: Political Leader Imprisoned for Speech (Algeria: UA 48.20)

May 13, 2020

On 27 April 2020, the trial of the leader of the opposition Algerian political party, Union Démocratique et Sociale (UDS), Karim Tabbou, was postponed to 1 June 2020 due to regulations related to COVID-19. After an unfair trial characterized by lack of notification for the defense and a collapse of the defendant in the court room, an appeals court sentenced Karim Tabbou to one year in prison for speech related charges.

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Minister of Justice Belkacem Zeghmati
Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy
Email: [email protected]
Fax: +213 023.38.35.50 / +213 023.38.36.01 / +213 023.38.36.35
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

Your Excellency,

Karim Tabbou’s trial was yet again postponed to 1 June 2020, as part of regulations to control the spread of COVID-19. Karim Tabbou has been imprisoned for more than 8 months now and has suffered dire health conditions in prison as reported by his lawyers who continue to pay him visits.

Karim Tabbou was first arrested on 11 September 2019 and charged with “undermining the morale of the army” which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison under article 75 of the penal code. More than two weeks after this arrest, he was released on 25 September 2019, pending trial. To his surprise, he was immediately arrested again the next day for a video that he had published in April 2019. This time, he was charged with “inciting to commit acts of violence with the intention of harming national defense” and “harming national unity” by preparing and publishing videos on social media. For these speech-related charges, Tabbou was first tried before the Sidi M’hamed first instance court on 11 March 2020. The court sentenced him to a fine and 12 months in prison, 6 months of which were suspended. He was due for release on 25 March 2020 having already served the six months in prison. However, a day before the due release date, on March 24, the Ruisseau Court of Appeals upheld his conviction in a trial that violated fair trial principles and returned him to prison.

Karim was only notified of the trial the same morning, when he was then transferred from Koléa prison to the appeals court without his family or lawyers’ knowledge. His lawyers were only notified of the trial by a colleague who happened to be at the courtroom at the time. Karim collapsed at the court room due to a spike in blood pressure and his lawyers rushed to court to find him at the courtroom’s infirmary. They boycotted the trial after the judges refused to postpone it and pronounced a verdict in absentia in a flagrant violation of his due process rights.

I ask you to immediately and unconditionally release Karim Tabbou and quash his conviction as he is a prisoner of conscience. Pending his release, I call on you to ensure he has access to adequate health care and protection from the risks of infection with COVID19. I finally call on you to investigate the conditions of his arrest and detention and release all other prisoners of conscience in Algeria.

Yours sincerely,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES