Religious Persecution (Algeria)

Four Algerians who converted to Christianity have been condemned to prison and heavy fines, while two others were set free after renouncing their conversion.

The defence lawyer said the four were charged with “illegally practicing a non-Muslim faith,” the French news agency AFP reported.

Attorney Khelloudja Khalfoun said one of the converts was sentenced to six months in prison and fined USD3,087, while the other three were sentenced to two months in prison and fined USD1,544 each.

The four converts, who were condemned by a court in Tiaret, refused to deny their faith, in contrast with the two others who were freed. Kheloudja told AFP that he would appeal the verdict, since only the ones who admitted they had converted were found guilty.

“They were judged by the facts themselves, and therefore all should be guilty or all should be freed,” he said.

The group of six converts was sentenced after being arrested for participating in an “illegal” service. According to a law passed in February of 2006 on religious worship in Algeria, places of worship must be designated as such by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The court that handed down the verdict was the same court that tried Habiba Kouider, who was arrested on April 1 for carrying a Bible and “practicing a non-Muslim religion without a license.” International media attention caused the judge to try to relieve some of the pressure by delaying her case and asking for an investigation.

Another court in the city of Tissemsilt will issue a verdict against two other converts to Christianity on June 18, who were arrested on November 20, 2007, and condemned to two years in prison and fines of USD7,718. They appealed the verdict and are awaiting the results of the appeal.

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