By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ALGIERS, ALGERIA (BosNewsLife)– An Algerian court has fined a former Muslim, who converted to Christianity, for evangelism, in a case that activists warned would further undermine religious freedom in the North African nation.
An appeals court in the western town of Tindouf fined Mohamed Ibaouène the equivalent of roughly $1,280 because he talked about his Christian faith with a former colleague, trial observers confirmed Thursday, February 14.
Abdelkrim Mansouri, a machine operator at the company where Ibaouène was a manager, filed a complaint against Ibaouène with the National Gendarmerie in Tindouf in February 2012 for allegedly pressuring him to “abandon” Islam.
Ibaouène was later sentenced in absentia to one year imprisonment and fined 50,000 dinars ($640) for the offense.
While the February 13 ruling squashed last year’s prison term, the court doubled the fine, complained his lawyer, Mohamed Benbelkacem. In statements, Benbelkacem said he was “shocked” about the verdict. “The judge must have undergone some pressure…by his superiors…otherwise my client would have been acquitted,” he added.
Ibaouène said he was surprised about the verdict as he had “never been investigated by the police or gendarmerie.”
The ruling could negatively impact the case of Siagh Krimo who appealed against his five-year prison term for giving a compact disk about Christianity to a neighbor, warned International Christian Concern, a major advocacy group.
“Once again, Algeria’s courts have enforced a law that, by its very nature, is used to prosecute anyone who does not adhere to the religion of Islam, said Aidan Clay, ICC’s regional manager for North Africa.
“Ibaouène’s ruling is an attack on freedom,” added Mustapha Krim, the President of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) in published remarks.
Under a controversial law introduced in 2006, unauthorized worship can result in five years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars.
Several Protestant churches have also been closed amid concerns among authorities about the estimated 30,000 devoted Christians in the heavily Islamic nation.
“As long as the 2006 law exists, there will always be people who wrongly accuse Christians,” Krim said.
Authorities say the measures are aimed at banning religious extremism following a long war between the military and Islamic militants.
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