An Algerian Christian has been sentenced to a year in prison for a post he made on Facebook.
On 8 January, the court in Bouira (100 km east of Algiers) found Samir Chamek, 34, guilty of insulting Islam and its prophet over items he posted on his Facebook page.
Samir says he will now appeal to the Supreme Court.
The sentencing follows a year-long legal battle:
December 2015 – cyber-crime officers of the Bouira Judicial Police saw pictures and comments on Chamek’s Facebook page; they said the posts were “accusing the prophet Muhammad of terrorism and murder and comparing the prophet to Hitler, mentioning the persecution and massacre of the Jews.”
Chamek was subsequently detained by police on 6 December 2015, but then released. He told World Watch Monitor: “I was arrested and taken to the police station, where I was interrogated for nearly five hours. I was asked to open my Facebook page, which I did.”
Based on the report of the Bouira Police, the Public Prosecutor at the Bouira Court initiated legal proceedings against him for the charge of offending and insulting Islam and its prophet under article 144 (bis) of the Algerian Criminal Code.
3 July 2016 – Chamek was tried and fined 100,000 Algerian dinars (US$ 900); the Public Prosecutor had requested a sentence of two years in prison and a 50,000 dinar fine. Not satisfied with this verdict, the representative of the Public Prosecutor appealed.
2 October 2016 – The appeal hearing took place in Chamek’s absence. The Public Prosecutor asked for the maximum penalty under Article 144 (bis): five years’ imprisonment.
16 October 2016 – The court gave its verdict: five years in prison and a 100,000 dinar fine.
25 December 2016 – Chamek appealed against that judgment at a court hearing.
8 January 2017 – The judge cut the jail sentence to one year and cancelled the fine.
“I will appeal to the Supreme Court,” Chamek told World Watch Monitor. “I explained to the judge that I only shared publications from other people, and I do not master the computer and French very well.”
(Many inhabitants of former French colony Algeria still speak French. However, in the Berber region, most people speak their own Berber language and Arabic).
On 6 September 2016 another Algerian Christian, Slimane Bouhafs, was sentenced by the Court of Setif (300km east of Algiers) to three years in prison. He also was accused for offending Islam and its prophet in a post on Facebook. He is currently serving his prison sentence and his family has sought a Presidential pardon, so far without success.
Algeria is number 36 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to be a Christian.