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German Tourist Preacher Escapes Morocco Before Prison Sentence

BosNewsLife News Center

08 December 2006

RABAT , MOROCCO (BosNewsLife)– A German tourist who was sentenced by a Moroccan court to six months in prison for converting Muslims to Christianity, was outside the country, Friday, December 8, a Christian rights group close to the case said.

Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM), Canada , said it had been informed that Sadek Noshi Yassa, who is of Egyptian descent, “was able to leave Morocco before the sentence was handed down,” last week. His exact whereabouts were not immediately clear.

The 64-year old man, who also received a fine of 500 dirhams ($60), was found guilty of trying to “shake the faith of a Muslim”, by distributing books and CDs about the Christian faith to young Muslim Moroccans in the streets of Agadir, Morocco’s main tourist destination.

The court in Agadir reminded the defendant that under Moroccan law “anyone who employs incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion” can be jailed for up to six months and fined.

MORE INCIDENTS

VOM suggested that this was no isolated incident. “While conversion from Islam is not a criminal offense, those who come to Christ have endured ostracism from families, loss of employment, and imprisonment. Missionary work is not allowed, though there are foreign

workers in other roles seeking to share their faith,” it said.

Morocco ‘s 1992 constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but its designation of Islam as “the state religion” has made it difficult for devoted Christians to openly express their faith. Any criticism of Islam is banned under the Penal Code and is punishable with up

to five years in prison, experts say.

VOM and other advocacy groups have expressed concern that King Mohammed VI will continue the policy of his father, late King Hassan II, who reportedly claimed to be a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammed and was committed to preserving Islam as the “religion of all Moroccans.”

“CLANDESTINE CAMPAIGN”

State-controlled local media have accused Christians of launching a secret “clandestine campaign” to convert Moroccan Muslims to Christianity. Christians are in a minority and comprise roughly one percent of Morocco ‘s over 33 million people.

Growing pressure on Christians in the country comes after neighboring Algeria introduced a controversial anti-conversion law this year after complaints of an increase in Christian conversions in al-Qabayel in the east of the country.

Before its independence in 1962, Algeria had hundreds of thousands of Christians, with 110 priests and 170 monks. Now less than 11,000 Christians live there, according to estimates.