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Support Mounting for Algerian Christian Sentenced to Five Year Prison Term

Washington, D.C. (November 15, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the case of Siagh Krimo, an Algerian Christian who was arrested for proselytizing and is scheduled to stand trial on Thursday, is gaining significant recognition among Christians and human right activists in Algeria who are calling for his immediate acquittal.

Siagh Krimo, who is 29 years old and married with an infant daughter, was arrested on April 14 and held for three days in Oran for giving a neighbor a CD about Christianity. On May 4, Krimo was sentenced to five years in prison for blasphemy based on the neighbor’s accusation that he had insulted the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Krimo was sentenced according to Article 144 bis 2 of Algeria’s Penal Code, which criminalizes acts that “insult the prophet and any of the messengers of God, or denigrate the creed and precepts of Islam.”

In the argument which led to the conviction of my client, there is no evidence,” Krimo’s lawyer, Muhammad Ben Belkacem, told the Algerian daily Liberté. “Even the person who complained was never presented at the hearing… [All evidence], including DVDs seized at the home of Siagh Krimo, were never presented in court... As for insulting the Prophet, he (Krimo) totally denies it!

The Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) is mobilizing a “massive presence” that will gather at the courthouse along with journalists and activists on November 17 for the scheduled reexamination of Krimo’s case, an EPA spokesman told ICC. Krimo’s trial is not only important to Christians in the country, but also to human right activists.

There is outrage surrounding his (Krimo’s) case,” Liberté reported according to an English translation. “In the judgment, the term ‘ridda’ was used, which means ‘apostasy.’ A teacher at the Faculty of Law and human rights activist accused the judge of acting ‘by ideology and not guardian of the law.’ And our partner in turn recalled that ‘Algeria's ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights means it must comply with Article 18 on freedom of conscience, religion and thought.’”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Siagh Krimo’s trial follows a series of convictions in recent years targeting Algerian Christians for evangelism or for failure to publically observe the practices of Islam, like fasting during Ramadan. While Algeria professes to uphold religious freedom, it also embraces a blasphemy law that, by its very nature, can be used to prosecute anyone not adhering to the practices of Islam. ICC calls for the immediate acquittal of Mr. Krimo whose prison term may be enforced as early as Thursday.”

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