Arbitrary detention of Canadian-Algerian researcher Raouf Farrah from February to October 2023

Arbitrary detention of Canadian-Algerian researcher Raouf Farrah from February to October 2023

Raouf Farrah, a Canadian-Algerian researcher, was arrested at his family home in Seraidi on February 14, 2023. He has been accused of “publishing information or documents partially or totally classified on an electronic network” and “receiving funds with a view to committing acts likely to undermine public order”. On August 29, 2023, Mr Farrah was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. His sentence was later reduced to eight months in prison and one year of suspended prison on appeal on October 26, 2023. Having served his sentence, he was released on October 26, 2023.

Raouf Farrah is an Algerian-Canadian researcher at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. He lives in Tunis, Tunisia. 

He was arrested on February 14, 2023 while he was on holiday for a week with his family in Algeria to attend a wedding.

That day, the gendarmerie and judicial police came with a search warrant to inspect the family home and an arrest warrant for Farrah. He was arrested and taken into custody by the research section of the El Hattab gendarmerie brigade in Annaba.

His arrest followed the judicial investigation against Amira Bouraoui, a Franco-Algerian activist who was particularly active during the Hirak pro-democracy movement, of which she was one of the leading figures, and then against the journalist Mustapha Bendjama. After Bendjama’s arrest, who got arrested for his ties with Bouraoui, the police inspected his phone and found messages he had sent to Farrah. These messages concerned a study on good governance in Algeria carried out by Bendjama for the NGO Global Integrity. Farrah recommended Bendjama’s name among a list of three candidates for this consultation offer.

On February 18, 2023, Farrah was transferred to the premises of the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI) in Constantine, where he was detained for the night. The following day, he was brought before the Public Prosecutor of the Specialised Criminal Judicial Unit of Constantine, along with Bendjama and the other defendants in the “Bouraoui” case.

On the night of February 19-20, 2023, an initial hearing took place before the investigating judge, after which Farrah was remanded in custody.

Farrah is being prosecuted under two criminal provisions. The first is article 95 bis of the Criminal Code for "receiving funds with the aim of committing acts likely to undermine public order" and the second is article 38 of Ordonnance n° 21-09 on the protection of administrative information and documents. Under this provision, he is accused of having "published classified information or documents on an electronic network".

Four different applications for Farrah’s release were presented on February 23, April 16, May 8, and June 26, 2023. The four applications were systematically rejected by the investigating judge without any justification.  

The trial took place on August 22, 2023. During the hearing, Farrah's lawyer, Kouceila Zerguine, explained that his client had never published any classified document, nor had he received any funds, but that he had issued funds to Mr Bendjama, and these funds were in no way likely to prejudice public order.

The prosecution did not provide any evidence as to these so-called classified documents and did not consider it necessary to respond to the allegations that Farrah had not received any funds. In addition, the judge mainly asked him questions about his relations with other journalists, accusing him of wanting to harm Algeria's international relations.

On August 29, 2023, the Constantine Court handed down its verdict and sentenced Raouf Farrah to two years' imprisonment and a fine of DA200,000 (about €1,000).

The appeal hearing took place on October 19, 2023, during which the judge asked questions about a book written by Farrah entitled Algérie : l'Avenir en Jeu : Essai sur les perspectives d'un pays en suspens. The book was published a few days after Farrah’s arrest in February 2023. The judge accused him of seeking to damage the country's image through the publishing of this collective book and his academic research. 

We believe that the charges and convictions against Farrah are based on facts that fall into the scope of his right to freedom of expression and freedom of association as protected by Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We also maintain that if Farrah is being detained, it is solely because of his legitimate contacts with journalists, including Bendjama, activists and Algerian academics. Moreover, we maintain that he has been a collateral victim of the “Bouraoui” case. 

Believing that the detention of Farrah is arbitrary, MENA Rights Group sent a Request for Opinion to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on October 23, 2023.

On October 26, 2023, the Constantine Court condemned Raouf Farrah and Mustapha Bendjama to eight months of prison and one year of suspended prison. Having served his sentence, Farrah was immediately released. 

In November, Mr Farrah’s lawyer lodged an appeal with the Algerian Supreme Court.


October 26, 2023: The Constantine Court condemns Raouf Farrah to eight months in prison and one year of suspended prison on appeal. He is released the same day.
October 23, 2023: MENA Rights Group sends a Request for Opinion at the UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention for Raouf Farrah.
October 19, 2023: Raouf Farrah is tried on appeal before the Constantine Court.
August 29, 2023: Accused of “publishing information or documents partially or totally classified on an electronic network” and “receiving funds with a view to committing acts likely to undermine public order”, Raouf Farrah is condemned to two years imprisonment.
August 22, 2023: Trial by the Specialised Criminal Unit of the Constantine Court.
June 21, 2023: Raouf Farrah is auditioned for the second time by the investigating judge on the merits of the case.
Night of February 19-20, 2023: Raouf Farrah is auditioned for the first time in front of the investigating judge then placed in custody.
February 18, 2023: Raouf Farrah is transferred to the Boussouf prison in Constantine.
February 14, 2023: The gendarmerie and judicial police searched the family home in Seraidi (Annaba). Raouf Farrah is taken into custody at the El Hattab gendarmerie brigade in Annaba.
February 12, 2023: Raouf Farrah arrives in Algeria for a family holiday with his wife and daughter.