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Five-year jail term for Algerian Christi...

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Five-year jail term for Algerian Christian who shared faith with Muslim

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Algeria

An Algerian Christian has been sentenced to five years in jail after sharing his faith with a Muslim neighbour.

Siagh Krimo, who is married with a nine-month-old baby, was arrested on 14 April along with another Christian. He was accused of blasphemy after sharing his faith with and giving a Christian CD to his Muslim neighbour; the other Christian was released.

Algeria_church_4X3.jpg
Algerian authorities are clamping down
on Christians and churches

At Krimo’s trial, held on 4 May, the prosecutor failed to produce the neighbour who had accused him of proselytizing and making defamatory statements against Muhammad, or any other witness or evidence. Despite this, Krimo was sentenced on 25 May to five years in jail and was fined 20,000 Algerian Dinars (£170, US$280, €194, AU$263, NZ$344). He is currently on bail and has ten days to appeal.

The court based its decision on an article of the Algerian Penal Code that criminalises acts that “insult the prophet and any of the messengers of God, or denigrate the creed and precepts of Islam, whether by writing, drawing, declaration, or any other means”.

Some Algerian Christians believe that the court came under pressure from higher authorities in the government. A representative of the Algerian Protestant Churches Association (EPA) said,

The judge would have normally acquitted Krimo of all charges, but I think he received an order from his superiors to strike hard.

Krimo was known to hold weekly prayer services at his home; Algerian Christians suspect these were being closely monitored by the police.

Krimo’s harsh sentence comes just days after the head of EPA received a notice from a High Police Commissioner informing him that a decision had been made to close down all Christian places of worship throughout the country that are not designated for religious purposes. One Christian leader said Krimo’s conviction and the church closure order were part of “a campaign against the Christian faith” in Algeria.

The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC) has linked the recent clampdown on Christians in Algeria to the lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency following public protests inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.  The WEA-RLC said it “suspects that the crackdown on Christians and their organisations is an attempt to prevent the church from growing in the absence of restrictions that were supposed to follow the lifting of the state of emergency on 24 February”.

The constitution of Algeria protects the religious freedom of non-Muslims, but it also states that Islam is the state religion and prohibits behaviour incompatible with Islamic morality. Encouraging a Muslim to convert to Christianity or possessing materials likely to “shake the faith of a Muslim” are punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

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