Algerian Christians are grateful that Slimane Bouhafs, imprisoned since September 2016 for blasphemy, has received a partial pardon.
His three-year sentence was reduced by 16 months on 5th July, the national day of Algeria, following a decree by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika which provided clemency to several prisoners on account of good behaviour in prison. As a result of the partial pardon, Slimane has nine months remaining on his prison sentence. Family members have again requested his release. According to Slimane’s daughter Tilleli, this request will be considered on 18th July.
Slimane was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on 7th August 2016 (reduced on appeal to three years on 6th September 2016) after he posted information on Facebook which was considered blasphemous against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Slimane was initially imprisoned in Sétif, then in Constantine, and for almost two months has been in prison in Jijel. A request by his family to transfer him to the prison in Bejaia, closer to their home, was turned down.
With support from human rights activists, family members have consistently demanded Slimane’s release and condemned the arbitrary judicial process leading to his sentencing and imprisonment. In October 2016 his family appealed to the President to pardon Slimane, whose health has deteriorated significantly since his imprisonment. According to Tilleli, Slimane has also suffered aggressive treatment from other inmates because of his Christian faith, particularly during his time in prison in Constantine. Tilleli comments: “My father is ill and we are worried about him.”
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a. that Slimane will be released from prison as soon as possible
b. for Slimane’s health and safety
c. for Tilleli and the other members of Slimane’s family
d. that the authorities will uphold freedom of expression and religion, and cease attempts to intimidate Christians
e. that the church in Algeria will maintain a faithful witness