Algerian Christian Jailed on Blasphemy Charges Goes on Hunger Strike

Yelles/Wikimedia CommonsJijel province in Algeria where Slimane Bouhafs' prison is located.

An Algerian Christian, who was sentenced to three years' imprisonment last year for a "blasphemous" Facebook post, has gone on a hunger strike to demand that he be transferred to a prison in his home province.

Slimane Bouhafs, who suffers from gout, has nine more months to serve, as he received a partial presidential pardon in July which decreased his sentence by 16 months. His family then applied for parole because his health is deteriorating, but it was rejected without any explanation by the court last week, according to a report by Middle East Concern.

Bouhafs wants at least to be transferred to Oued Ghir Prison in Bejia, where his home is.

He was arrested on July 31, 2016 for Facebook posts that were deemed "offensive to Islam." He wrote about the light of Jesus overcoming the "lie" of Islam and its prophet and for publishing photos of the execution of a civilian by an Islamist terrorist.

He was originally held at Sétif Prison, and transferred to Constantine Prison last October where he was assaulted by fellow prisoners. He was then transferred to a prison in Jijel, where he is currently being held and is on a hunger strike.

His family has requested him to end his hunger strike due to health concerns.

Bouhafs, who converted to Christianity in 1997, was initially sentenced to five years in prison and fined $1,200 last August. In September 2016, his sentencing was reduced to three years and the fine was dropped after an appeal. And a partial presidential pardon earlier this year further decreased his sentence by 16 months.

Bouhafs' daughter Thilleli earlier said that her father had only shared someone else's posts on Facebook. "I wonder why there is this rage against my father, who did not have a high profile on Facebook," World Watch Monitor quoted her as saying.

Another daughter, Afaf, described her father as a man who had always defended the interests of his country from a young age. She said he is known for his commitment to democracy and religious freedom in all his writings published on his Facebook page, according to the Monitor.

Bouhafs belongs to a movement for the self-determination of the Kabylie region.

Muslim-majority Algeria is a Sunni Islamic State, according to its constitution.