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Christians Sentenced to Prison for Proselytizing in Algeria

Algerian Convert Fights Proselytism Verdict: Christian did not know of his conviction; accuser absent from hearing.

ICC Note: Mohamed Ibaouene, a Christian convert from Islam, learned on December 11 that he had been convicted in absentia on July 4, 2012 by a court and sentenced to one year in prison for allegedly pressuring a Muslim to leave Islam, Morning Star News reports. Ibaouene denies the charge, saying the Muslim was the one pressuring him to change his religion. The verdict has been appealed and the judge plans to reach a decision on February 6.

01/25/2013 Algeria (MSN) -The attorney for a Christian shocked to learn that he had been convicted of pressuring a Muslim to leave Islam said after an appeals hearing on Wednesday (Jan. 23) that the verdict was utterly unfounded.

Mohamed Ibaouene, 36, learned on Dec. 11 that he had been convicted in absentia on July 4, 2012 by a court in Tigzirt, sentenced to one year in prison and fined 50,000 dinars (US$635). His appeal hearing this week took place in Tindouf, where he held a position with an international business concern, and where a machine operator approached him to ask if he was a Christian.

The machine operator, a hard-line Muslim identified only as Abedlkrim M., later accused Ibaouene of pressuring him to renounce Islam under Algeria’s controversial Law 06/03, which restricts religious practice of non-Muslims.

Ibaouene denies the charge, saying the 27-year-old Muslim was the one pressuring him to change his religion, and that Abdelkrim M. leveled the accusation only after Ibaouene, a convert from Islam, refused to renounce Christ (see “Algerian Christian Unknowingly Convicted, Sentenced,” Dec. 21, 2012).

At the hearing on Ibaouene’s appeal on Wednesday, the prosecutor shouted to the judge that he uphold the conviction and sentence, according to Ibaouene’s lawyer, Mohamed Benbelkacem.

“Article 11 of Law 03/2006 is clear, “ the prosecutor shouted, according to Benbelkacem. “That is why we ask that the verdict against Ibaouene, called Mohamed, a year in prison and a fine of 50,000 dinars, be maintained.”

Law 03/2006, commonly known as Law 06/03, mandates a prison term of two to five years and a fine of 500,000 to 1 million dinars for anyone who “incites, constrains, or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion.” The original prosecutor had sought a prison term of two years and 100,000 dinars. The original judge sentenced him to only half of each request.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Benbelkacem implored the appeals judge to acquit Ibaouene, especially as his accuser did not bother to appear. The appeals judge said he would rule on Feb. 6.

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