Algerian Christians Given Suspended Prison Terms for Evangelism

Four Algerian Christians received suspended prison sentences and fines Tuesday for allegedly trying to convert Muslims in a country where nearly the entire population is follower of Islam.

Rachid Seghir, 36, was handed a six-month suspended jail sentence by a court in the western town of Tiaret, according to Reuters. Seghir, who is a computer technician, was also fined $3,202 USD for what the court ruled as breaking the 2006 law that forbids non-Muslims from seeking to convert Muslims.

The 2006 law also restricts all non-Muslim activities to take place within its church walls.

"We are Christians and we are not ashamed to say it," Seghir had said to journalists outside the court before the hearing.

The other Algerian Christians also received suspended prison terms and a fine, but to a lesser degree of severity.

Jillali Saidi, Abdelhak Rabih and Chaabane Baikel received two-month suspended prison sentences and were fined $1,601 USD each.

The four say they intend to appeal the court ruling.

"The verdict confirms an attitude of lack of respect for freedom of conscience," said defense lawyer Khelloudja Khalfoun, according to Reuters.

Two other Algerian Christians were acquitted of the accusations against them.

The court ruling against the believers are the latest in a series of Christian persecution that included the closing of nearly half of the Protestant churches in Algeria within six months.

It is feared that all the churches will be closed by the end of the year if persecution continues.

Last month, an Algerian Christian was detained for five days, fined $460, and given a one-year suspended prison sentence for carrying a Bible and personal Bible study books, according to Compass Direct news. The young Christian man was a convert from Islam and had reportedly told fellow believers that police pressured him to return to Islam while he was in custody.

Several other reports in May revealed that Christian converts were being pressured to return to Islam, and harassed for practicing their new faith without license.

Islam is the official state religion of Algeria, where 99 percent of its 33 million population is Muslim.