Washington, D.C., December 19, 2019 — A court in Oran, in northwest Algeria, sentenced cartoonist Benabdelhamid Amine to one year in prison on December 11 after finding him guilty of insulting the president, “violating territorial integrity,” and “disseminating publications harmful to national security,” according to news reports. The Djamal City Criminal Court suspended nine months of that sentence, thereby requiring Amin to spend three months in prison, according to those reports.
The charges against Amine stemmed from cartoons he published on his personal website and social media, one of which depicted Algerian Army Chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah placing a golden slipper on the foot of Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the former prime minister who won election as president on December 12, according to those reports.
“Jailing cartoonist Benabdelhamid Amine for his political satire shows that Algerian authorities have not broken with the country’s authoritarian past,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “Algerian authorities should grow a thicker skin.”
On November 26, plainclothes security officers raided the Oran office of the advertising company where Amine works, arrested him, and placed him in pretrial detention, according to news reports and a report by Geneva-based rights organization Cartooning For Peace. On December 5, the Djamal City Criminal Court charged Amine under Article 96 of the Algerian penal code, and sentenced him on December 11, according to those reports.
Amine is being held at Oran Prison, according to Bendjama Mustapha, editor-in-chief of the local Le Provincial newspaper, who is familiar with the case and spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
CPJ emailed Algeria’s Ministry of Justice for comment, but did not receive any response.
According to CPJ’s 2019 prison census, Algerian authorities were holding at least three journalists in custody as of December 1. Amine was not included in the census because CPJ could not confirm a connection to his journalistic work as of December 1.