On Tuesday's hearing, February 11, the Algerian prosecutor of the Court of Oran claimed a prison sentence of 18 months and a fine of 200.000 Dinars in the case of the cartoonist Djamel Ghanem, which represents a precedent in the history of the press, by the virtue that the complainant is the media institution in which the said cartoonist was working, where it accused him of insulting the President of the Republic in one of his cartoons!
Cartoonist's lawyer worked hard to demonstrate the lack of the evidence of the felony of insulting the President and the lack of dishonesty, where he considered that the principal of the newspaper has no right to filing a complaint, as a civil party, in the case of insulting the President, since that is one of the prosecutor's powers, solely. The lawyer has focused on the lapses in addressing the case from the outset, such as hearing the accused without a defense and without being shown his right to empower a lawyer.
For his part, Djamel Ghanem confirmed to the Algerian newspaper El khabar his responsibility for the cartoon since it lies in the category of the freedom of expression stipulated to in the Constitution, with clarifying that "The cartoon was incomplete and it was not made to be published, while I completely deny that I tried to locate it in the newspaper without the knowledge of the editorial staff."
El khabar newspaper reported that the Chair was certain, through the questions made, about the impossibility of publishing the cartoon in the newspaper without the knowledge of the editorial staff. The judge set the date of March 4 to settle the case.
It should be noted that the case goes back to December of the last year after filing a complaint by the francophone newspaper Voix Oranie against Jamal Ghanim for insulting the President and dishonesty by trying to pass a cartoon mocking at the idea to stand for election by the Algerian President for a fourth presidency period, while the cartoon did not include any picture of Bouteflika, (We had published a story on this subject at the time).
Djamel Ghanem stressed that the statements in the minutes of hearing before the investigating judge in the Court of Oran had been extracted from him under pressure, while the trial was pursuant to Article 144 bis (amended) of the Algerian Penal Code which provides for the punishment of all those who insult the President of the Republic. Under this law, prosecution can take place even in the case of non-publication of an article or a cartoon, which could subject anyone to the imprisonment because of what could be considered an insult to the president.
A number of international organizations have teamed up with the cartoonist, while a number of Algerian journalists have organized a solidarity stand in front of the headquarter of the Algerian Radio Station in Oran on Wednesday morning, February 19. In addition, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) has condemned the abusiveness practiced by the Algerian prosecutor against the cartoonist.
Arab Cartoon House website to unite with the cartoonist in the following open gallery.
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