Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Algerian Christian Sentenced Beyond Prosecutor’s Request

The good news about this is that there people converting to Christ in Algeria. I pray that the numbers grow.

5/30/2011 Algeria (Compass Direct News) – Convicting a Christian convert for insulting the prophet of Islam, a judge in Algeria last week stunned the Christian community by sentencing him beyond what a prosecutor recommended. In Oran, 470 kilometers (292 miles) west of Algiers, a criminal court in the city’s Djamel district on Wednesday (May 25) sentenced Siaghi Krimo to a prison term of five years for giving a CD about Christianity to a neighbor who subsequently claimed he had insulted Muhammad. Krimo was also fined 200,000 Algerian dinars (US$2,760), according to Algerian news reports.

The prosecutor had reportedly requested the judge sentence him to a two-year prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (US$690). The court tried Krimo based solely on the complaint filed by his neighbor, who accused him of attempting to convert him to Christianity.  “He gave a CD to a neighbor, and for that he has to spend five years in prison,” said the president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), Mustapha Krim, trying to contain his disbelief. “The hearing went well, and the lawyer defended well, yet in the end the judge gave him the maximum punishment.”

Authorities arrested Krimo on April 14 and held him in jail for three days. On May 4 he appeared before the court in Djamel, where the prosecutor requested the two-year sentence in the absence of the neighbor who had accused him – the only witness – and any evidence.  The punishment the prosecutor requested is the minimum for Algerians found guilty of insulting Muhammad or “the messengers of God,” or anyone who “denigrates the dogma or precepts of Islam, be it via writings, drawings, statements or any other means,” according to Article 144 of the Algerian Penal Code.

Krim said that if the courts start interpreting the law as it did in Krimo’s case, then the future of Algeria’s Christians is grim.  “If they start applying the law like that, it means there is no respect for Christianity,” Krim said, “and pretty soon all the Christians of Algeria will find themselves in prison. If the simple fact of giving a CD to your neighbor costs five years in prison, this is catastrophic.”

Defense lawyer Mohamed Ben Belkacem told Compass that the judge’s verdict was unexpected and heavy, indicating the legal system’s prejudice against Christians.  “We did not expect this verdict at all,” Ben Belkacem said. “It was a heavy sentence. The judge punished the ‘Christian,’ not the ‘accused.’ There was no proof, and despite that, the court granted him no extenuating circumstances.”

The lawyer said he plans to appeal the case. Krimo is not required to serve his prison sentence until the court hears his appeal and upholds the conviction.  “My client denied having insulted the prophet, and there is no material proof that supports this accusation,” Ben Belkacem told Compass before the May 25 hearing, “but these types of cases are full of unexpected, last-minute developments, so it is difficult for me to envision the outcome.”

At the time of his arrest, authorities detained another Christian convert along with Krimo but released him the same day. Authorities first took Krimo to his house, which they ransaked, confiscating his Bible, CDs, computer and flash discs, according to sources. His wife was able to retrieve the items the next day.

Krimo had “good contact” with his neighbors and sometimes answered questions about Christianity, according to sources. Krimo and his wife have a baby daughter.  The court delivered its verdict the same week that the governor of the province of Bejaia ordered the closing of seven Protestant churches. Asked if he thought the court had instructions from higher officials to hand down such heavy punishment to Krimo, Krim responded with no hesitation: “It’s certain!” (Source)

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