Algerian Blasphemy Charges Continue
04/12/2021 Algeria (International Christian Concern) – Algerian Christian Slimane Bouhafs served nearly two years in prison on blasphemy charges before seeking asylum in Tunisia. Now, he is seeking refuge yet again as threats and persecution followed him. Though he received his refugee card six months ago, he has not yet been assigned a new country and is anxiously awaiting his departure.
Bouhafs became a Christian in 1999, though his entire family remains Muslim. His family faced many threats and isolation as a result. In 2016, he was arrested, interrogated, tried, and sentenced on the same day, to five years in prison and fined. Eventually, he understood that his accusations were in regards to a Facebook post that indicated his preference for Christianity over Islam. Authorities deemed this blasphemous and though he eventually received international attention and a partial pardon that resulted in only serving two years in prison, Bouhafs was forced from his home as soon as he was released. Moving to Tunisia alone, he continues to face isolation and persecution, missing his family and even his daughter’s wedding due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. He was recently harassed by three men, one of whom had an Algerian accent. Tunisian policemen did not accept his report and instead learned of his Christianity through online articles and continued to insult him.
Academic researcher, Saâd Djabelkheir also faces blasphemy charges in reportedly Algeria’s first case brought against a university professor regarding the content of his work. Djabelkheir studies Islam and made statements regarding the pagan origin of some Muslim traditions, citing Quranic texts. He now faces trial for his research. The first hearing was on April 1, with a verdict expected on April 22.
Algeria’s 2020 Constitution concerns some that human rights were swapped out for fundamental rights, suggesting that freedom of conscience is not respected. Article 51 of the 2020 Constitution guarantees freedom to practice religion and freedom of opinion, though lacks freedom of conscience and freedom of belief. It is these two that allow one to change religions, express religion, and as it currently stands, suggests that the law can make a person believe or not believe.
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