On 8th January a court of appeal in Bouira (100km east of Algiers) in the Kabylie region upheld a conviction for blasphemy against a Christian man and sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment.
Samir Chamek (34) has been a Christian since 2005 and comes from a Muslim background. He is married and has two children. On 6th December 2015 Samir was arrested by the cyber-crime unit and accused of insulting the Prophet by republishing pictures and comments on Facebook. Samir was tried on 3rd July 2016 and fined 100,000 Algerian Dinars (approximately $900), although the prosecutor had requested a sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 Dinars.
Not satisfied with the verdict, the prosecutor appealed. On 16th October 2016 Samir was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Dinars, the maximum punishment for blasphemy under article 144-2 of the Algerian penal code.
Samir’s lawyer appealed and on 8th January 2017 the prison sentence was reduced to one year. The lawyer is planning to appeal to the supreme court.
This is the second such verdict involving a Christian in recent times. On 6th September 2016 Slimane Bouhafs, another convert from Islam to Christianity from the Kayblie area, was convicted of blasphemy by a court in Sétif (300km east of Algiers). He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment because of material he had posted on Facebook which was considered “insulting to the Prophet and Islam”.
Slimane’s family asked for a presidential pardon in October because of his deteriorating health. There has been no response to their request. Slimane is currently in Constantine Prison. In November he was attacked by other inmates when he spoke up for the Christian faith and freedom of expression after a sermon by an imam which incited hatred against Christians. A request by Slimane’s family to move him to another prison has so far been unsuccessful.
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Algerian Christians request prayer:
a. that Samir and Slimane, their families and churches will experience the peace of Jesus and the comfort of the Holy Spirit
b. that Samir will soon be acquitted on all the charges against him
c. for Slimane’s safety, and that he will be granted a presidential pardon and released from prison
d. that laws in the Middle East will be changed so that freedoms of expression and religion are upheld
e. that the authorities will cease attempts to intimidate Christians, and that the church in Algeria will grow and continue to witness throughout the country