A bookshop owned by a Christian in Algeria can reopen its doors following a court order, reports Christian advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
The court’s decision on 13 December annulled an earlier order by the Governor of Oran to close the bookshop in Ain Turk, 30km west of Oran, on charges of “illegally print[ing] Gospels and publications intended for evangelism”.
The bookshop was closed in November last year as well as the church, whose pastor is the bookshop’s tenant, as World Watch Monitor has reported.
Despite the fact that the police did not present evidence to support the allegations, the Governor decided the bookshop was to remain closed. However, the church was told in June it could reopen.
In its verdict, the court said the original order had identified another Christian than the pastor as the tenant of the bookshop, accusing him of “evangelistic activities”. As this was proven to be incorrect, the bookshop should be reopened.
The court did not mention the charges of evangelism and neither did it grant the pastor’s request for compensation, according to MEC.
Churches and individual Christians in Algeria have faced increased harassment in recent months, raising concerns that these pressures signal a “coordinated campaign of intensified action against churches by the governing authorities”, MEC said.
A string of Protestant churches has closed during the past 12 months. The most recent closures took place in July, October and November, while in April a Christian bookshop and day-care centre for Christian children also were closed.
In May the organisation linking 45 Protestant churches in Algeria, l’Eglise Protestante d’Algérie (EPA), called on the Algerian government to drop its policy of closing down churches, and to give equal treatment under the Maghreb country’s constitution.
In July the UN Human Rights Committee urged the Algerian government to stop harassing Christians and guarantee religious freedom for all its citizens.