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Algerian trade union leader appeals prison sentence

10 May, 2017Algerian trade union leader and whistleblower, Mellal Raouf, will begin an appeal against his six-month prison sentence at a court in Guelma on 11 May.

Raouf, who is President of IndustriALL affiliate, the electricity and gas workers’ union (SNATEGS), was sentenced in absentia on 16 December 2016 to six months in prison and a fine of 50.000 Algerian Dinars (US$455), after being accused of illegally obtaining documents. These documents, which were freely available online, exposed the illicit inflation of electricity bills by Sonelgaz over a ten-year period affecting eight million customers.

IndustriALL has again written to the President of Algeria condemning the sentence. "It is clear that this judicial persecution is incompatible with Algerian law, and especially with the fundamental rights stipulated by the International Labour Organization,” wrote IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, adding: “We urge you to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against him.”

Sonelgaz workers are currently holding a three-day national strike against Sonelgaz from 9 to 11 May. The strikers are demanding trade union freedoms and support the appeal by the SNATEGS president, Raouf.

SNATEGS leaders and members face ongoing physical harassment and persecution as evidenced by the recent wave of arrests following peaceful demonstrations held between 21-23 March, when over 240 trade union leaders and members were arrested and 30 women physically assaulted.

More recently, around 40 SNATEGS trade union delegates in five different provinces were called in for disciplinary hearings by Sonelgaz for engaging in legitimate strike action.

In 2015, Raouf was unfairly dismissed for his trade union activities and he continues to face repression by Sonelgaz, which has most recently filed a complaint against him to the Order of Lawyers, whereby he risks being excluded from the national Bar Association. Raouf has succeeded in establishing SNATEGS in 27 different regions across Algeria and organizing around 30,000 workers.