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Algerian convert loses appeal against Facebook "blasphemy" conviction


8 September 2016

Slimane Bouhafs, a 49-year-old Algerian Christian convert from Islam, has been sentenced to three years in prison for “offending the Prophet [Muhammad]” and “denigrating the creed and precepts of Islam”. Mr Bouhafs posted on Facebook in July that “Jesus overcomes the lies of Islam.” The judge originally handed down the maximum prison term of five years and ordered him to pay a fine of 100,000 Dinars (around £685; $912) on 7 August, but his sentence has been reduced on appeal.

Since his arrest, on 31 July, Mr Bouhafs has been held in custody without bail, despite the fact he suffers from ill-health. His appeal against the guilty verdict was heard on 6 September. Amnesty International has stated that “his conviction stems solely from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression,” and that “blasphemy laws … violate the rights to freedom of expression, conscience and religion.”

Although the Algerian constitution provides for freedom of religion, Islam is the official state religion and Christians from Muslim backgrounds face persecution and can be discriminated against in court. Under a law passed in 2006, Christians are forbidden from worshipping anywhere other than in a registered church and authorities often refuse permission for buildings to be used as places of worship