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Four Algerian Christians Sentenced to Prison

Algerian Government Appeases Terrorists over Religious Freedom

Washington, D.C. (December 16, 2010) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that four Algerian Christians received jail terms for opening a place of worship without government authorization. The verdict is the latest in a series of cases targeting Muslim converts to Christianity.

Pastor Mahmoud Yahou and three elders, Abdenour Raid, Nacer Mokrani and Idir Haoudj, were prevented from continuing worship services when Salafist jihadists accused them of conducting ‘illegal’ Christian activity. In response, Algerian security forces demanded that the church, located in Larbaa Nath Irathen, a village in the Kabylie region, halt all worship services and that the four leaders appear in court.

On December 12, the three Christian elders were sentenced to two months imprisonment while Pastor Yahou was sentenced to three months and a fine of 10,000 dinars (equivalent to 137.00 USD) for housing a foreigner without reporting his visit to local authorities and for hosting worship services in an unregistered church building. The Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) is expected to appeal the sentence in ten days.

Algeria is in a catch twenty-two. They want to have a good relationship with countries abroad, but at the same time, they want to stop the church because it’s growing faster than in any other Muslim country,” an Algerian Christian activist told ICC. “Being in the Middle East/North Africa region, it’s not difficult to understand why they are embarrassed about the growth of Christianity. That’s why they are trying to stop evangelism and church meetings. At the same time, they are building many mosques in the Kabylie area where the church is growing.”

A law introduced in 2006 requires churches to obtain a government permit to worship. Church leadership has expressed frustration over the government’s negligence to lay out a set procedure to register a church or to approve a permit quickly. Moreover, churches are not allowed to register independently. “A local church cannot register by itself, but only through the EPA which is officially recognized by the government. If they try to register on their own, they will be denied,” the activist continued.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In sentencing four Christians to jail simply for worshipping in accordance to their own convictions, Algeria once again tramples upon the most basic human rights of its people. It was the Salafists, a recognized terrorist organization, who initiated these complaints against the Christians in Larbaa Nath Irathen. Without the Salafists’ influence, there would have been no trial, meaning that terrorist ideology is dictating government action. Upon the EPA’s appeal, we urge the Algerian government to shake off the influence of terrorist networks, acquit the four Christian leaders, and demonstrate to the world that Algeria desires religious freedom and is steadily making progress toward that end.”

For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected]