Algeria: Christians get suspended jail terms for proselytising

Algiers, 3 July (AKI) - Two Algerian nationals have been given a suspended six-months sentence for proselytising for Christianity.

"We are disappointed by the verdict but not ashamed of our new faith," said Christian converts Rachid Seghir and Djallal Dahmani, from the city of Tissemsilt, quoted by Arab TV network Al-Arabiya on Thursday.

The Algerian government has accused Protestants and Evangelicals of conducting an intense missionary campaign in their country trying to convert the population.

"The verdict is unfair, I do not understand why people are sentenced to jail for their beliefs," said the head of the Algerian Protestant churches, Mustafa Karim.

Even though freedom of religion is enshrined in the Algerian constitution, a law passed in 2006 limits the practice of other faiths.

The law includes prohibiting public assembly for purposes of practising a faith other than Islam and forbids non-Muslims from seeking to convert Muslims.

It is estimated that out of 33 million inhabitants, only 10 thousand are of Christian faith.

The sentence is the second one to be handed down to the accused, as they were already sentenced in absentia for the same offence in November 2007. Both plan to appeal the ruling.

Both accused were able to avoid jail time by paying a fine of 100,000 dinars (1,000 euros).


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