The government of Algeria is once again criticized for discriminating religious minority groups.

The Protestant Church of Algeria denounced the government for handing a hefty fine to two Christians for having Bibles in their car. In a statement, the Church (known by its French acronym, EPA) denounced the intimidation of Nouredine and Belabbes Khalil, reports Premier.

Under Algeria’s 2006 law, any act to “shake the faith” of a Muslim is punishable. Publishing, storing and distribution of non-Muslim materials are forbidden.

The case of the brothers began when they were arrested by the police in March 2015 for carrying 56 Bibles in their vehicle. Officials questioned them about the source of the Bibles and the brothers’ purpose for travelling with them.

Nouredine said he leads a church community and he would be distributing the Bibles to his congregants. The police released the brothers with the Bibles, but later referred the incident to a prosecutor. During the hearing of the case, prosecutors claimed the Bibles were to be used for proselytism.

Under Algeria’s 2006 law, any act to “shake the faith” of a Muslim is punishable. Publishing, storing and distribution of non-Muslim materials are forbidden.

In December 2017, a court sentenced the Khalil brothers to two years in prison each and a $450 (50,000 dinar) fine. An appellate court in Tiaret, southwest of the capital Algiers, overturned the jail sentences. The court gave the brothers suspended sentences of three months each, but doubled the fines to $900 (100,000 dinar).

The EPA will make a further appeal against the March 8 verdict.

Previously, the government closed down a church in northern Algeria, the fourth in four months, reports World Watch Monitor.

Authorities shut down a church in the village in Azagher on March 2, 2018 claiming the building was substandard and did not meet the law’s safety standards. The three other closed churches were located in the town of Oran.

Christian organization Middle East Concern denounced the government for its “coordinated campaign of intensified action against churches.”

Sources:
Premier
World Watch Monitor

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