Sofiane Merakchi, a freelance reporter, has been detained in Algiers since September 22, 2019, on charges of evading customs while importing broadcasting equipment.
Merakchi reports for the Beirut-based TV channel al-Mayadeen as well as France 24, Al-Jazeera, and RT, Khaled Darerni, a journalist and founder of the independent news outlet Casbah Tribune, told CPJ. Merakchi covers political events, including protests that started in February 2019 calling for new presidential elections, according to news reports and Drareni.
Security forces arrested Merakchi at his office in Algiers on September 22, 2019, according to news reports. On September 26, the Bir Mourad Rais First Instance Court in Algiers charged Merakchi with evading customs authorities while importing broadcasting equipment, according to news reports. The court ordered Merakchi to be sent to El Harrach prison, in a suburb of Algiers, pending trial, according to reports.
If found guilty, Merakchi could face up to seven years in prison, plus a fine in relation to the value of the equipment, according to Algeria’s penal code.
Merakchi’s lawyer, Fatma Al-Zahraa Ben Berham, told the news website TSA Algeria in September that the journalist denied the charges and planned to appeal the decision to jail him pending trial.
CPJ could not determine the state of the journalist’s health. CPJ’s phone calls and messages to Merakchi’s lawyer in October 2019 went unanswered. As of November 2019, CPJ’s phone calls to al-Harrach prison and the Ministry of Justice went unanswered.