A Christian in Algeria has been sentenced to five years in prison – the maximum term – and given a heavy fine for blasphemy against Islam and its prophet, for a social media post.
Slimane Bouhafs, 49, appeared before a judge on 7 Aug in the eastern town of Setif (300km from Algiers, the capital) in the Kabylie region.
He was arrested on 31 July for posting a message on social media about the light of Jesus overcoming the “lie” of Islam and its prophet. He also published photos showing the execution of a civilian by an Islamist terrorist.
Such material is judged by the authorities to insult Islam, the state religion in Algeria, according to its Constitution. The penal code provides for a penalty of three to five years in prison, along with a heavy fine, against anyone convicted of insulting Islam and Muhammad, its prophet.
The Vice-President of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), Said Salhi, denounced what he called “this attack” on the guarantees of freedom of conscience and worship enshrined in Algeria’s Constitution.
The human rights group said it wished to “alert public opinion and defenders of liberties to this new attack against the rights guaranteed by national laws and the international instruments of human rights”. LADDH also called for Bouhafs’ unconditional release and for “a broad mobilization to push back an unlawful act, to let justice triumph”.
The news of his sentence was a shock for his family, who denounced what they called a “sham” trial of the man who became a Christian in 1997, and who was baptised in 2006. His daughter, Afaf, described her father as a man who has always defended the interests of his country from a young age. She said he is known for his commitment to democracy and religious freedom in all his writings published on his Facebook page.
Bouhafs’ family said they are deeply concerned, as he suffers from a chronic illness and his health may deteriorate as he goes to prison. According to his daughter, he suffers from inflammatory rheumatism, a disease that worsens under stress. “He needs to follow a special diet,” she said.
The President of the Protestant Church of Algeria says its lawyer will appeal the verdict.
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SOURCE: World Watch Monitor