Watchdog Says Algerian Journalist Jailed 100 Days 'Too Many'

W460

Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has denounced Algeria's arrest since June of a freelance journalist and fixer as "100 days too many" and demanded his release.

Said Chitour, who has worked for the BBC and the Washington Post among others, has been held without trial since intelligence services arrested him at Algiers airport on June 5, RSF said.

"The request for his release that his lawyer filed at the end of July has been rejected. No trial date has so far been set," the watchdog said in a statement on Tuesday.

"One hundred days of provisional detention are 100 days too many, 100 days of incomprehension and injustice, because there are no grounds for keeping Said Chitour in prison," it said.

RSF said it was "appalled" by his continued detention in the Algerian capital's El Harrach prison.

"When provisional detention is extended without any reason and without a trial date, the detention becomes arbitrary and the principle of the presumption of innocence is flouted. We call for Chitour’s immediate release," it said.

Defence lawyer Khaled Bourayou said Chitour, who is suspected of passing confidential documents to foreign diplomats, was to face a final interrogation before being referred to "probably a criminal court."

RSF said Chitour was being held under Article 65 of the penal code, which provides for "life imprisonment for anyone who, with the intention of passing them to a foreign power, gathers intelligence, objects, documents or processes whose compilation and use are liable to harm the nation's defense or economy."

His lawyer told AFP no confidential document traded hands and he expected Chitour to be exonerated.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in July that Chitour's arrest "appears to be an attempt to keep information about Algeria out of the international press."

RSF, which ranks Algeria 134rd out of 180 countries on its press freedom index, charged in June that the North African country used "harassment" and "threats" to pressure journalists.

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