Algeria: Silencing critics at home and abroad


Testimony of Nfissa Touati, Merzoug Touati‘s wife

“On 01 March 2022, Merzoug was transferred from Ghardaia prison to Laghouat prison which is 550 KM from my residence in Bejaia. I visited him in this new prison a day after his transfer there, I directly noticed his dismay, he told me that the day before his arrival he was intimidated, prison administration staff told him that they believe his sentence was minimal compared to the crimes he committed according to them. He told me he is in an overcrowded cell with 27 other people and that there is no bed for him, so he sleeps on the bear floor”.

“On 6 April 2022, I visited him again with my mother-in-law and his little brother, he looked pale and was dragging his feet and couldn’t stand tall from pain. I asked him if the prosecutor had come to check on him and learn about his hunger strike. He said that no one had visited him and that the prison management did not recognize his hunger strike and there is no medical or psychological follow up initiated. He told me that he suffers from stomach pain. After the visit, we asked to meet the prison director. The director, who met us at the prison door after hours of waiting during which agents tried to dissuade us from seeing him, denied that Merzoug have started a hunger strike but at the same time he explained that the demands of Merzoug do not fall under his prerogatives”.

After this visit, his wife received news that he had been transferred to a hospital in Laghouat. She told Amnesty International that she traveled to Laghouat, 550 kilometers from her home, on 16 April 2022, and did not find him there. The prison administration gave her inaccurate information. She had to search for him in hospitals and prisons for three days because no one gave her any accurate information. She finally found him in Bouira prison, where she visited him on April 18, 2022. He had been transferred there without any notification to his family or lawyer.

Testimony of Soheib Debbaghi‘s father

“I visited him in Bouira prison immediately after he was transferred there when he and a group of detainees started a hunger strike in protest of their prolonged pre-trial detentions. Soheib told me that the prison guards scolded him and accused him of having incited other detainees to start a hunger strike. He told me that five guards ganged over him, beat him up and banged his head on the wall. Then they tied his arms back and tied him to a wall and left him bleeding for hours. He told me that they took him out of his shared cell and isolated him from his group and other prisoners. His cousin, Ahmed Tarek Debbaghi, detained in the same cell for the same charges, noticed that he had been gone for a long time. He and other prisoners started to make noise. Prison guards took them down to a tiny cell where death row prisoners are held. At 4 am, they transferred him and the four others to Bouira prison, where he remains to date.

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