(Beirut) – A journalist on hunger strike since July 2016, to protest his arrest in Algeria on charges on which he should not have been prosecuted, died on December 11, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Relatives carry the coffin of British-Algerian journalist Mohamed Tamalt, who had died on December 11 after staging a hunger strike in Algiers over his two years sentence for publishing articles considered as offensive to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Algiers, Algeria December 12, 2016.

Police arrested Mohamed Tamalt, a freelance journalist with dual Algerian and British nationality, on June 28. The First Instance Court of Sidi M’Hamed in Algiers sentenced him to two years in prison, upheld on appeal, for “offending the president” and “defaming a public authority” under articles 144bis and 146 of the penal code.

“The Algerian authorities’ prosecution of Mohamed Tamalt symbolizes their determination to punish peaceful dissent,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It is tragic that a journalist in Algeria died on a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment.”

The charges against Tamalt were for posts on his Facebook page that included a video he shared on April 2, 2016, showing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika greeting former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and a poem with insulting verses about Bouteflika.

Tamalt’s lawyer, Amine Sidhoum, said the journalist began his hunger strike shortly after his arrest. He had been in a coma since August and had been hospitalized in the Lamine Debaghine hospital in Algiers, Sidhoum said.