Jailed Journalist Dies after Hunger Strike

Journalist Mohammed Tamlt. Photo Credit Al Jazeera

British-Algerian Journalist Mohammed Tamalt died in a coma on December 11, following a three-month hunger strike intended to protest his two-year jail sentence in Algeria. The jail term came as a result of a poem written on Facebook by Tamalt, perceived as “defaming a public authority” and “offending” Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Tamalt’s lawyer, Amine Sidhoumwrote, “I can confirm the death of [Tamalt] in Bab el-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma.” The blogger and freelance journalist ran a website based in London, and was arrested shortly after posting his poem on June 27, near the capital of Algiers. The Algerian appeals court later upheld the ruling.

 Tamalt’s death has sparked calls for investigation and accountability by various human rights groups. In August 2016, Human Rights Watch urged Algerian authorities to release him when he was in critical condition. Amnesty International’s Brahim Mahdid called for “a full, transparent, and independent investigation into Mohammed Tamalt’s death.” He went on to question the cause of death in an interview Al Jazeera, raising questions of whether Tamalt “received the proper treatment during the strike.” Sidhoum also spoke to the news outlet, saying his death marks “the first time since Algeria gained its independence from France that a journalist died in jail because of what he wrote on the Internet.” Sidhoum went on to say, “I am also really sad at the lack of support from his fellow Algerian journalists, who left him and abandoned him.”

According to statements provided by Tamalt’s family, they agree with the calls for an open investigation, questioning the extent of his injuries beyond an infected lung. His brother Abdelkader noted stitches in Tamalt’s head, indicating inflicted wounds from blunt trauma. Sidhoum promised that following the death, more effort would be made into examining his treatment while in prison. The journalist is scheduled to be buried Algiers on December 12.