Algerian jailed for spying for Israel: lawyers

ALGIERS Sat Jul 7, 2007 5:26pm EDT

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ALGIERS (Reuters) - A court in Algeria's troubled Kabylie region sentenced an Algerian journalist to 10 years in prison on Saturday for spying for Israel, lawyers said.

Said Sahnoun, a correspondent for newspapers in sub-Saharan Africa, was found guilty of providing information to Israel's Mossad intelligence service after a criminal court trial in Tizi Ouzou town 100 km (60 miles) east of Algiers.

Prosecutors said he provided information about the Algerian army's military capabilities and about an Islamist rebel group known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), lawyers involved in the case said.

The rebel group, which this year began calling itself al Qaeda's north African wing, claimed responsibility for triple suicide bombings that killed 33 people on April 11 in Algiers.

A policeman accused of the same offences along with Sahnoun was acquitted in the trial, which was held in camera, lawyers said. The policeman's name was not released to the media.

Dozens of Islamist guerrillas remain at large in Tizi Ouzou region, shielded by criminal and family links and the remoteness of the area.

The region is also a bastion of Algeria's Berber speakers, who have long had tense ties with the authorities, protesting at what they see as discrimination by the Arab majority.

Up to 200,000 people have been killed in political bloodshed since 1992 when supporters of a now-outlawed Muslim fundamentalist party launched an armed rebellion after elections the party was poised to win were cancelled.

The violence has dropped sharply in recent years but a recent spate of bombings claimed by the GSPC has threatened Algeria's attempts to rebuild.

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