IFJ Flays “Tragic Incompetence” After Algeria Judges Lose File on Jailed Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the “guilty silence” of the judicial authorities in Algeria following the public acknowledgement of the loss of journalist Mohamed Benchicou’s case-file by the Supreme Court.

On 30 July, at a press conference organized by the lawyers of the director of the daily Le Matin, the lawyers publicly announced that they had received statements from the judicial authorities overseeing the appeal case of Mr. Benchicou indicating that the journalist’s case-file had gone “missing”. Five days after the press conference, there has still been no official reaction from the Supreme Court.

“The case-file has not disappeared from the Supreme Court,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, for whom “this case only serves to confirm the advanced level of corruption that exists within the Algerian judicial system.” “Instead of a ridiculous but tragic comedy of affairs, we are in reality faced with a deliberate and insidious attack aimed at breaking down the fundamental rights of a journalist,” said White.

The director of Le Matin, locked up in El Harrach prison for 415 days, has been waiting since August last year for a ruling by the Supreme Court to be given on two decisions by the first and second appeal courts in El Harrach and Algiers condemning him to two years in prison.

"Mohamed Benchicou has been in prison for more than a year under the pretext of having abused exchange-rate laws,” said Nadir Benseba, the coordinator of the IFJ Safety Centre in Algiers. “The basic reasoning behind his imprisonment is questionable, but worse still is that the political powers here appear ready to use all their possible means to push aside a ‘problematic’ journalist.”

After a year of waiting, the disappearance of his case-file, which has never occurred in the history of the Algerian justice system, has killed off any chance for the trial to be reopened.

At a time when world governments are calling for serious change in the Algerian economic legal structures, the Algerian state continues with impunity to violate their own laws that guarantee a free press and free expression.

The IFJ is calling on the international community to react immediately to confront this denial of justice in Algeria and to exert serious political pressure on the Algerian authorities over an increasing number of recent attacks against journalists working to defend their right to free expression.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries