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Algeria: Release Rights Defenders Facing Trial

Algerian authorities should release human rights defenders Abderrahmane Khelil and Sid Ahmed Mourad from jail, Human Rights Watch said today. The two men face trial on Sunday, May 26.

The two men were arrested near the campus of the University of Bouzaréah in Algiers on May 19. Accompanied by his friend Mourad, Khelil had gone there on behalf of the independent Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights to collect information on the arrest of students the day before, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's visit to the campus was greeted by protests.

"The authorities have Abderrahmane Khelil in their sights because he represents Algeria's new generation of human rights defenders," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The police jailed him merely for trying to document how they had broken up a campus protest. Both he and Mourad should be freed immediately and unconditionally."

Khelil, who also works for SOS Disparus, an organization representing families of "disappeared" persons, was twice arrested in March when he and activists on behalf of the "disappeared" attempted to demonstrate peacefully in the capital.

Khelil and Mourad are in el-Harrach prison. They are scheduled to appear in court on May 26 on a charge of "inciting an unarmed gathering," a violation of Article 100 of the Penal Code. They face fines and prison sentences of up to one year if convicted.

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