TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria, June 25, 2019 (Morning Star News) – A judge on June 16 handed a Christian father of two in northwest Algeria a suspended prison sentence and a hefty fine for holding worship at his house, four days before another judge fined the owner of land that a church uses.
Prosecutors had sought a six-month prison sentence and a fine of 500,000 Algerian dinars (US$4,200) for the 35-year-old father in Mostaganem, a coastal town about 350 kilometers (217 miles) west of Algiers. The judge instead delivered the two-month, suspended prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 dinars ($840) to the new Christian, who requested anonymity as he fears for his life in the officially Muslim North African country.
For inviting a Christian couple to pray with him, an area source said, he was accused of organizing Christian worship in his home under Algeria’s notorious religion law of June 2006, commonly known as the 03/06 law, which forbids non-Muslim worship for unregistered churches. The law stipulates that churches must obtain the permission of a national committee to be registered, but this committee has never met, and no church request has been officially considered or approved, sources said.
“Incredible but true, it was enough that a neighbor denounced him and accused him wrongly, and he is condemned, all because he welcomed a Christian couple to pray together,” said the area source, who cannot be identified for security reasons. “He is frightened and shocked by this accusation.”
Police had summoned the Christian for questioning several times, the source said.
“During these visits to the police station, the poor man had to endure terrible pressure and intimidation, though he was known as a man of peace,” he said.
In Akbou, about 185 kilometers (114 miles) east of Algiers in Bejaia Province, Kabylie Region, a judge on Thursday (June 20) fined the owner of a church that was ordered to close in October 2018.
Prosecutors had sought a 500,000-dinar (US$4,200) fine and six months in prison for Amar Ait-Ouali, owner of the land where City of Refuge Church meets in Azaghar village near Akbou, for allowing a worship tent on the land after authorities closed the 300-member congregation’s church building on Oct. 16, 2018. The judge instead fined Ait-Ouali 50,000 dinars (US$420), Ait-Ouali said.
“I’m not afraid of them, and all their intimidation is just wind,” Ait-Ouali told Morning Star News. “I have the right to be a Christian, and I also have the right to make my home and my land available to the church. All this is injustice. ”
His attorneys, a group of human rights lawyers, said they would appeal.
The pastor of the church, Jughurtha Sadi, said the congregation is trusting in God for the outcome.
“We have nothing to fear,” the pastor said. “The EPA [Protestant Church of Algeria, an umbrella group] is on our side to support us. Whatever they do, we will continue to praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
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Source: Christian Headlines