(Photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
A Christian man has been sentenced to five years in prison for sharing his faith with his neighbor. According to International Christian Concern, Siagh Krimo was given the sentence last week in Djamel District, Oran, Algeria.
Prosecutors quickly charged Krimo of proselytizing after his neighbor made a complaint, and accused him of making defamatory statements against the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Krimo was sentenced under Article 144 bis 2 of the Algerian Penal Code which makes it a criminal offence to "insult the prophet" or "denigrate the creed and precepts of Islam."
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said: "Algerian Christians have been under attack in recent weeks as laws have been increasingly enforced to discriminate against them.
"While Algeria professes that it upholds religious freedom, it also embraces a blasphemy law that, by its very nature, can be used to prosecute anyone who does not adhere to the religion of Islam.
"We urge Algeria to acquit Siagh of all charges and repeal Article 144 bis 2 of the Penal Code."
The news highlights the escalating situation in the country, and comes just days after seven Algerian churches were told to close after the governor of their province accused them of operating “illegally.”
Police Chief Ben Salma, citing a May 8 decree from the Bejaia Province governor, stated that all churches “in all parts of the country” must be closed for lack of compliance with registration regulations. However, Christian leaders dismissed this assertion as the provincial official does not have nationwide authority.
“All buildings permanently designated for or in the process of being designated for the practice of religious worship other than Muslim will be permanently closed down in all parts of the country, as well as those not having received the conformity authorization from the National Commission,” Salma stated in the closure notice.
Krimo, who is a husband and father, now faces the bleak prospect of spending the next five years in prison, unless he managed to stage a successful appeal against the judgment. According to ICC, Krimo has 10 days to appeal the sentence.