Algeria Activist Jailed for “Insulting State Insitutions”

Worker and human rights activist Abdelkader Kherba has been imprisoned after he filmed a citizens’ protest brought on by chronic water cuts affecting the inland town of Ksar El Boukhari in Algeria.

Kherba was detained August 22. Initial attempts made by his family to locate him at the local police station were met with denials by authorities. However, his family has since learned that Kherba was transferred to the town prison after appearing before magistrates on charges of insulting the state’s institutions and officials. He is due to stand trial on August 28, according to the independent union of public administration workers, SNAPAP, a Solidarity Center partner.

Kherba is a founding member of SNAPAP’s Committee of Unemployed Workers, which has been calling on the Algerian government to resolve problems caused by extremely high levels of chronic unemployment in the country— a situation which acutely affects younger workers.

A trade union activist, Kherba supported a sit-in protest of striking Justice Ministry workers last April, an action for which he was convicted for inciting protest, fined and given a suspended 1-year jail sentence. After returning home for the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr, which follows the month-long Ramadan fast, Kherba was outraged by the seemingly indifferent manner in which authorities disrupted the water supply—so vital when Ramadan falls during the hot summer months and people do not consume food or water during the daylight hours.

“We condemn this illegitimate use of the courts against human and worker rights activists and call upon the Algerian government to immediately release Abdelkader Kherba,” said SNAPAP President Rachid Malaoui. “SNAPAP considers these drastic and punitive legal measures taken by the Algerian government to be a form of harassment against activists engaged in the legitimate exercise of their fundamental human and worker rights and are deliberately designed to suppress dissent and eliminate all possibility of free speech and democratic participation.”

SNAPAP calls upon the international community for support in defending human and workers’ rights in Algeria by actively denouncing the arrest of Abdelkader Kherba.