Courtesy of the family of Raouf Farrah Raouf Farrah, with his wife Lara and his daughter Célia Nedjma, before his arrest.
- A Canadian researcher languishes in a prison in Algeria
- The Canadian researcher- Algerian Raouf Farrah sentenced to two years in prison
“See my family again, rest and chart a new course.” It is with these words, shared on the other end of the phone with Le Devoir, that the Canadian researcher of Algerian origin, Raouf Farrah, accompanied his release from prison in Algeria on Thursday.< /p>
A few hours earlier, the Constantine Court of Appeal decided to reduce the length of his sentence, making this specialist in transnational crime for the organization Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) “immediately releaseable”.
Mr. Farrah was arrested last February in the Annaba region where he was visiting his family, accused, among other things, of publishing “classified information.” These accusations are regularly used on purpose by the Algerian military regime to silence opponents or activists of Hirak, this peaceful movement calling since 2019 for the democratization of the country.
Last August, Mr. Farrah was sentenced to two years in prison. On Thursday, the Algerian justice upheld his conviction, but reduced the sentence to 8 months and 12 suspended, thus allowing the researcher to regain his freedom and especially his family.
“It’s a surprise and a relief to finally be free,” added the researcher, contacted in Algeria just minutes after his release from prison. He denounced in passing the “arbitrariness” of Algerian justice which threw him and a co-defendant, the journalist Mustapha Bendjama, a critical voice of corruption in Algeria, behind bars. “We were prisoners of conscience, condemned for facts and opinions normally guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of Algeria.”
Analyst on the issue of human trafficking in Libya, the researcher of 36 years old coordinated a collective work published at the beginning of the year and entitled Algeria: the future at stake, essay on the prospects of a country in suspense (Koukou éditions). Mr. Bendjama is one of the contributors. The work nourishes reflection on the democratic aspirations of Algerians expressed largely between 2019 and 2020 in the streets by Hirak.
Thursday, Mr. Farrah's lawyer, Kouceila Zerguine, told the Dutythat he was going to take the researcher's case to the Supreme Court in the coming days, with the aim of “proving the innocence” of his client. “Today’s verdict is not an acquittal and that’s what we’re going to seek,” before the country’s highest court, he said by telephone.
According to several observers, the Canadian researcher has for eight months been the collateral victim both of the intimidation campaigns carried out by the regime against Hirak activists and of the investigation into the flight to Tunisia – embarrassing for the Algerian autocratic power – of the activist. Franco-Algerian politician Amira Bouraoui. She is close to Mustapha Bendjama, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Le Provincial in Annaba.
Analysis of the journalist's phone revealed to the Algerian police contacts between Mr. Bendjama, Raouf Farrah and the NGO for which the researcher works and which led to accusations of “publication of information […] whose content is classified partially or entirely secret” and “receipt of funds from foreign or domestic institutions with the intention of committing acts that could undermine public order.” The two men have contested from the start the nature and credibility of the indictments brought against them.
“There were problems in carrying out the investigation, in the management of the case, in establishing the evidence, Mr. Farrah said in an interview Thursday. The accusations are unfounded.”
Photo: Courtesy of the family of Raouf Farrah “There is a little girl here [Célia Nedjma, 4 years old] who will be very, very happy to find her dad. We hope he will be able to join us here soon. The first coffee with him is going to be incredible…” commented Raouf Farrah’s partner, seen here in a photo taken in 2022.
Last September, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, urged the Algerian government to “drop the charges” and “pardon” the activists and Hirak sympathizers. He believes that Abdelmadjid Tebboune's regime has established a “climate of fear” to silence the demands of a large part of the population for reform of the Constitution and the establishment of the rule of law.
This climate is fueled by “a series of criminal charges against individuals, associations, unions and political parties under excessively restrictive laws, including an anti-terrorism law contrary to international obligations of Algeria in terms of human rights”, he said.
From Tunis where the Canadian researcher has lived with his family for three years, Lara Pocock, spouse of Raouf Farrah, said relieved by the release of her husband. “It’s an unexpected joy that has crossed us since this morning,” he said in an interview with Devoir. “After months of disappointment, after the hell we have been through since February, I had prepared myself for the worst while waiting for this other verdict.”
And she added: “There is has a little girl here [Célia Nedjma, 4 years old] who will be very, very happy to see her dad again. We hope he will be able to join us here soon. The first coffee with him is going to be amazing…”