Urgent Action Update: WHISTLEBLOWER ACTIVIST’S CONVICTION UPHELD (Algeria: UA 43.22)
October 18, 2022
Mohamed Benhlima is a former military officer and anti-corruption activist who exposed the corruption of high-ranking Algerian military officials. He fled Algeria to Spain in September 2019 out of fear of being targeted by the authorities for his participation in a peaceful mass anti-government protest movement. He was sentenced to death in absentia in 2021. On September 4, 2022, an Algiers appeal court upheld his conviction in relation to charges of “participation in a terrorist group” and “publishing fake news undermining national unity”, in three separate cases and sentenced him to a total of twelve years in prison. Mohamed Benhlima faces several other legal cases according to a close family member and is currently detained in solitary confinement at a military prison.
Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on December 13, 2022.
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President of the Republic of Algeria, Abdelmagid Tebboune
Présidence de la République
Place Mohammed Seddik Benyahia, El Mouradia, Alger, 16000 Algèrie
Fax: +213 02169 15 95
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Ahmed Boutache
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
I am writing to raise concerns about the ongoing detention of whistle-blower and anti-corruption activist Mohamed Benhlima, a 33-year-former military official, who’s been detained in El-Blida military prison since April 28, 2022. He remains held in solitary confinement, granted 10-minute breaks per day and continuously denied any contact with other prisoners. Officers at El Blida military prison have also banned him from receiving meals, clothes and even books provided by his family.
He was sentenced to death in absentia in 2021, while still an asylum seeker in Spain, on charges of espionage and desertion. On September 4, 2022, an Algiers appeal court upheld the conviction and sentenced him to a total of twelve years in prison in three different cases. He stood charges for “participation in a terrorist group” (Article 87bis 3 of the Penal Code) and “publishing fake news undermining national unity” (Art.196 bis). On June 19, 2022, he had testified in front of a judge in Kolea court that military security agents in S’hawla intelligence center in Algiers subjected him to torture and other ill-treatment for many days straight after his refoulement to Algeria on March 24, 2022. The allegations include him being stripped naked and freezing water poured on his body. The Algerian authorities did not publicly share proof of a formal investigation into Mohamed Benhlima’s claims of torture and other ill-treatment taking place despite his family formally requesting an investigation in a letter they addressed to the Algerian authorities on June 25, 2022. The prison administration also practice discrimination against him and his family as they leave them waiting until the official visit time is almost over and that all other families have finished their visits before allowing them to see him for less than 10 minutes and in the presence of guards. several acts of intimidation against them. They reported unnecessary questioning by El Blida prison staff following every visit paid to Mohamed Benhlima.
I urge you to ensure the immediate release of Mohamed Benhlima, to quash his death sentence in absentia, and to drop all the charges against him as they are based solely on the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Pending his release, I urge you to ensure that he is removed from solitary confinement and that he is held in conditions meeting international standards and protected from torture and other ill-treatment. Finally, I urge you to continue to grant him, meanwhile, the right to regularly communicate with his family and lawyers and to refrain from any act of intimidation against them.