Algeria: Death of human rights activist in prison sparks controversy

The Algerian Ministry of Justice has launched a “thorough investigation” into the death of Algerian human rights activist Kamal Eddine Fekhar in prison.

Fekhar fell into a coma inside the prison and passed away after being transferred to a hospital in Balida, according to his lawyer.

According to Algerian news website TSA, Fekhar’s attorney stated: “some details will be settled before the burial, as the deceased’s family demanded an autopsy. We have been told that samples have been taken for examination; however, I am not fully aware of the particularities of the procedure. Thus, we have to make sure of some steps before burying my client so as not to be obliged to dig his grave afterwards.”

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The lawyer said that Fekhar complained of “degrading medical treatment,” adding: “If there is no autopsy, we will demand one due to the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. I have warned the authorities three weeks ago that Kamal Eddine was subjugated to inhuman medical treatment in his detention room at Ghardaia hospital.”

Fekhar went on hunger strike for more than 100 days, while serving a two-year prison sentence between 2015 and 2017 on charges of “compromising state security;” the same charge he was imprisoned for on 31 March.

The Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) called for unveiling the “truth behind Fekhar’s death,” which is a “prisoner of conscience.” The Socialist Forces Front called for “shedding light on the circumstances of the activist’s death.”

Amnesty International demanded the Algerian authorities “to launch an effective, independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Fekhar’s death and bring anyone suspected of holding criminal responsibility in this case to justice.”

Fekhar was arrested on 9 July, 2015, following the outbreak of ethnic confrontations in Ghardaia in the oasis, south of Algeria, between Arab locals and Amazigh Mozabite, leading to the death of 23 people and incarceration of more than 100.

The death of the Amazigh activist, who is perceived by many Algerians as a “militant” and as a “separatist” by others, sparked controversy on social media platforms.