ALGIERS - An court in Algeria on Tuesday sentenced the director of a daily newspaper, Ali Fodil, and a journalist, Naila Berrahal, to six months in jail on conviction of defaming Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi.
Fodil, who runs the Ech-Chorouk Arabic-language daily, and Berrahal, were also each fined 20,000 dinars (220 euros, 270 dollars) in damages and interest after being found guilty in the case brought by Kadhafi himself.
The Libyan leader filed a suit in neighbouring Algeria after Ech-Chourouk published articles on August 3 and 12 reporting a "prefabricated plan by Colonel Kadhafi to divide the Tuaregs... and destabilise Algeria."
The Libyan plaintiffs stated that these reports, which quoted unnamed chiefs of Tuareg communities in Algeria, Niger and Mali, were unproven and "an insult to the person of the victim (Kadhafi)" and "the security of the Algerian and Libyan states."
The court in the Algiers suburb of Hussein-Dey upheld the complaint, but the defence team said it would appeal against the verdict. Pending an appeal, the sentences against the journalists are suspended.
Defence lawyer Khaled Bergheul denounced what he described as "a political trial and a political verdict".
The chief news editor of Ech-Chourouk, Anis Rahmani, said that he was "shocked and surprised" by the conviction.
"We weren't expecting such sentences," Rahmani said, adding that "the court did not take testimony from the Tuaregs cited as witnesses by the defence."