Today, Khaled Drareni was sentenced to two years in prison. Shameful and unforgivable decision of the regime. Painful injustice for Khaled, his family, his friends. For all of Algeria. The formidable mobilization at the national and international level will not have overcome the regime’s will to gag Khaled. The two former co-detainees of Drareni, Slimane Hamitouche and Samir Benlarbi, were sentenced to four months in prison. They are, paradoxically, free on the same charges.
Khaled had to be sacrificed. For the regime, it could not be otherwise.
The journalism he symbolizes irritates the regime. The designated president and his political henchmen have made it a ‘state affair.’ The baseness and ignominy of the statements of Tebboune, Belhimer and others led to his conviction before his trial. Tebboune and his ministers have gone too far. Going up such a slope would have been yet another admission of weakness.
According to journalists who were there, everything was ready to sacrifice Khaled. Large law enforcement units surrounded the courtyard and barred access to the building, threatening anyone who dared to assemble following the judge’s ruling. The dice were cast in advance.
With this condemnation, the regime confirms its ‘total war’ against the Hirak. Those in power feel a deep loathing of those who threaten their interests. Righteousness, competence and commitment are synonymous with stubbornness, arrogance and insolence. They want to silence not the journalist ‘Drareni’ but the journalism he symbolizes.
The regime wants to make journalism a crime, activism a crime, citizenship a defect. It’s a question of survival.
In defiance of the law and by the use of rogue laws, the regime wants to stifle, punish and monitor all the free ways that can accompany and fuel the popular movement. Those who dare to challenge the arbitrary, illegitimacy and authoritarian nature of the regime fill the glass with the hopes, demands and free voices of the peaceful Hirak, carried by the youth Khaled symbolizes.
Khaled won’t be out of prison anytime soon. In the face of History, he and all the unjustly imprisoned prisoners of conscience are free men. They are the hostages of a regime, but the heroes of a worthy people fighting peacefully against a regime that has confiscated the country and buried the public interest. Even though Drareni, Benaoum, Lallami, Abdesami, Nekkaz and all the detainees are in our hearts and minds, we fear for their health and their lives. Today, hearts are heavy, but the peaceful struggle must continue, because only the hirak will free them. Only the Hirak can save the country from the dark fate that the regime has in store for it.
By Raouf Farrah