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Trial Could Lead to Five Year Imprisonment

Washington, D.C. (April 25, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two Algerian Christians are scheduled to appear in court on charges of proselytizing and blasphemy, and may face a five year prison sentence. The two men were arrested and briefly imprisoned in Oran on April 14 after sharing their Christian faith with their neighbors.

One of the men, Sofiane, was released a day after their arrest, while Krimo was imprisoned for three days. After the arrest, Algerian police searched Krimo’s home for Bibles and other Christian material. Krimo was known to hold weekly prayer services at his home, which Algerian Christians suspect were being closely monitored by the police.

A court hearing, initially scheduled for April 27, was postponed to a later date. Algerian Christians are fearful that a law introduced in 2006 – requiring religious services to obtain a government permit to worship – will be applied, which may result in a five year imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars (equivalent to 1,390.00 USD). 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.

The Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) engaged a lawyer to defend Krimo and Sofiane. We are hopeful that they will be acquitted,” a pastor in Tizi Ouzou told ICC. “Although our constitution says to respect other faiths other than Islam, the government is Islamic, and article two says ‘Islam is the religion of State.’ There is no respect for human rights or religious freedom and the protestant church is suffering.”

The arrests came a day before Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika pledged to his country that he would reform the constitution to allow freedom of press and free elections. Since the current constitution was applied in 1996 to strengthen emergency laws and ban religious-based parties following a war between the military and Islamic militants, the Algerian government has been unable to contain Islamists who have been largely responsible for attacks on Christians.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “We urge the Algerian government to expand its pledge to reform the constitution by also offering greater freedoms to Christians and other religious minorities. The first step is to remove the legislation introduced in 2006 that makes it nearly impossible for Christians to worship openly. It is time for the Algerian government to prove that they stand behind article 36 of the constitution, which states that freedom of creed is inviolable, by acquitting Krimo and Sofiane of the charges of blasphemy and proselytizing, and demonstrating to the world that Algeria is steadily making progress to become a country that respects the right to worship freely.”

Call the Algerian embassy in your country to express your concern:
United States: + 1 202 265 2800   
Canada: + 1 613 789 0282
United Kingdom: + 44 207 221 7800
Germany: + 49 30 43 73 70  
France: + 33 1 53 93 20 20 
Australia: + 61 2 6286 7355