Four sentences on parole and two acquittals. A hybrid ruling was pronounced today by the court of Tiaret regarding six Christians accused of distributing religious material "which threatens the Muslim faith". […] [Algeria] has been in the spotlights of the local and international media for days for the controversial trial against Habiba K., the young woman converted to Christianity, who was accused of practising a "non-Muslim cult without authorisation".
Out of the six Algerians, all of whom are Protestant Christians and are accused of "distribution of religious material which threatens the Muslim faith", four were sentenced to prison on parole, while the other two were acquitted, as lawyer Kalloudjia Khalfoun told ANSA. "If we had not had the international attention, I am sure they would have been incarcerated," she added pointing out that it is however "a grave sentence directed clearly against the Christians".
"Why just the four of them who admitted to be Christians were sentenced?" Khalfoun wonders. "All of them were accused of the same crime and were arrested in the same occasion. For this reason, tomorrow morning we will file an appeal".
The heaviest sentence, 6 months on parole and a 2,000-euro fine, was passed against Rachid M., who converted to Christianity some 16 years ago and had already been found guilty of proselytism by the court of Oran. The other three were sentenced to two months on parole and a 1,000-euro fine. On June 18 the ruling in another trial in Tissemsilet (50 km from Tiaret) which involves the same Rachid M. – considered by the Algerian authorities the head of the evangelical community of Tiaret (300 km west of Algiers) – is expected.
Algeria, Our Ally? 22 May 2008