After more than three months, the same consternation. The family of Raouf Farrah, geopolitical researcher and essayist imprisoned for 100 days in Algeria, demands his immediate release and calls on the Government of Canada to “continue its efforts” with the Algerian regime to end what they describe as intimidation again targeting a Canadian national for his writings on the Algerian pro-democracy movement.
Mr. Farrah was arrested on February 14 in the Annaba region, in the north-east of the country, while he was passing there with his wife and daughter for a family visit. He was remanded in custody six days later at Boussouf prison in Constantine, where he has languished ever since.
The Algerian authoritarian regime, which for several months has reinforced its repression against Hirak militants, this movement calling for the democratization of the country, just like the citizens speaking out on this subject, accuses it of “receiving funds from the foreigner with the aim of carrying out acts prejudicial to public order” and “publication on the Internet of classified information”, which the principal concerned refutes.
I feel like he was mostly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Based on what we know of Raouf, his work, his connections, it’s obvious that this is a misunderstanding. We ask Algeria at least to grant him bail and let the facts speak for themselves to clear his name.
Algiers has been multiplying for months the opportunist accusations against the voices critical of the regime and the opponents of the presidency of Abdelmadjid Tebboune. Several Canadians of Algerian origin have paid the price since 2021, when the Algerian authorities decided to be less conciliatory in the face of the “revolution of smiles”, which emerged in the streets in 2019, and to impose a leaden screed on this movement calling for a democratic reform of the country of North Africa.
Raouf Farrah coordinated a collective work published at the beginning of the year and entitled Algeria: the future at stake, an essay on the prospects of a country in suspense(Koukou editions). He seems to be a collateral victim of the investigations carried out by the Algerian regime after the flight to Tunisia of Amira Bouraoui, a strong figure of Hirak, last February, from Annaba where Mr. Farrah and his family were.
An Algerian journalist, Mustapha Bendjama, was arrested and accused of having facilitated the activist’s clandestine exit from Algeria through Tunisia. He is one of 20 contributors to the collective trial led by Mr. Farrah.
“Raouf had no connection with Mr.me Bouraoui”, assures his boss, Mark Micallef, director of the Sahel and North Africa observatory of the NGO Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, for which Raouf Farrah has worked since 2020. The researcher is an analyst there on the issue of human trafficking in Libya. “I feel like he was mostly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Based on what we know of Raouf, his work, his connections, it’s obvious that this is a misunderstanding. We are asking Algeria to at least grant him bail and let the facts speak for themselves to clear his reputation,” added Mr. Micallef joined by The duty in Malta.
To date, two requests for release filed by Mr. Farrah’s lawyer have been dismissed.
A family in the void
“Since his incarceration, a feeling of injustice and concern has lived in us,” Mr. Farrah’s family said in a press release on Monday. It is with sadness that his daughter celebrated her four years without him. All the little moments of everyday life that are so important to us lack meaning without his presence. We think of his sadness too at not being able to be present for his daughter, for his family. »
And to add: “Raouf is a researcher of integrity, recognized internationally for his work on North Africa and the countries of the Sahel. His publications show that he takes the development of these countries and the well-being of their peoples to heart. »
The arrest and detention of Mr. Farrah are reminiscent of the case of Lazhar Zouaïmia, this Hydro-Quebec technician accused in February 2022 of “undermining national security and unity” and thrown in prison. for 40 days, then held against his will in Algeria. He was there to visit his family. A human rights activist, particularly within Amnesty International, the man regularly participated in demonstrations organized in Montreal in favor of the Algerian pro-democracy movement in addition to sharing comments online on the Hirak. He finally managed to return to Quebec in May 2022, but was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison last November, for his pro-democracy activism, however carried out only from Canadian territory.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada, four Canadian nationals, having requested the support of the consular mission in Algiers, are currently imprisoned in this North African country.
Without going into the details of these imprisonments, Ottawa specifies that it maintains “long-standing bilateral relations with Algeria”, which allows it, among other things, to enter into discussions with the Algerian government “on issues of importance to Canada. , including on human rights and consular cases,” said a spokeswoman for the ministry. Duty. “We strongly support the rights of all Algerians to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression,” she added.
For Mourad Haouas, friend of the family of Raouf Farrah, the geopolitical researcher is above all an expert in international relations who documents the political and social issues of the region, and not a Hirak militant, as the Algerian authorities seem to believe. . “You have to support your family in the ordeal they are going through at the moment, he said in an interview with the Duty from Montreal where he lives. And we must hope for his release as soon as possible. »