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Algerian governor ignores court order and shuts down church


6 June 2019

A recently installed Algerian governor, Mohamed Djemaâ, is continuing to take the hard line of his predecessor against a church building operating in his province by ignoring a court order and shutting down the place of worship.

Boudjima Church in Tizi Ouzou province was sealed by the authorities on 27 May.

The evangelical church has been embroiled in a long-running legal battle with the authorities since 2017 when it was targeted as part of an ongoing offensive launched against churches that saw several shut down.

The Boudjima Church in Algeria was shut down on 27 May by local authorities despite it winning a court case that said it could remain open
The Boudjima Church in Algeria was shut down on 27 May by local authorities despite it winning a court case that said it could remain open

Boudjima Church first opened its doors on 11 January 2019 after a court ruled against the province’s previous governor, Abdelhakim Chater, who wanted to stop its construction. Chater has since moved on to a chief of staff role in central government.

Tizi Ouzou’s head of security visited the church on 28 April with heavily-armed security forces and threatened to close it. On a subsequent visit, on 27 May, security agents sealed all the doors of the building.

The church is the fourth that has been recently closed, despite it reportedly having the correct documentation to hold services.

Churches are sometimes closed down over “fire and safety” issues, or if they are not registered, but they are also sometimes allowed to reopen after protesting a closure.

Committees made up of officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Fire Brigade, the national Gendarmerie and the Intelligence Department started visiting churches in late 2017.

The declared aim of the committees was to check safety, but they also asked about permits to operate as churches obtained from the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship.

Despite numerous requests from some churches, the commission has reportedly never issued a permit.

There is growing concern in Algeria over the attempts of Islamist extremists to fill the political vacuum left by the departure of 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

A presidential election was set for 4 July but postponed on 2 June, after the constitutional council said only two candidates were prepared to stand and both were invalid. The postponement will likely extend the rule of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah beyond the 90-day period set for the caretaker presidency.