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ALGERIA: Sentenced to 5 Years for a Facebook Post Members of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable Call on the UN Special Rapporteur on Fre

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Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and 18 other human rights organizations and individuals submitted a letter calling on the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, to urge the Algerian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally Christian ExMuslim and father of four, Hamid Soudad and repeal their blasphemy laws.

GENEVA - eTradeWire -- The letter condemns the sentence carried out against Hamid Soudad which breaches international law on several accounts. The signatories agree that: "all blasphemy laws are incompatible with international law" and cites the reports of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression which express similar concerns.

Algerian authorities are sentencing Hamid for a Facebook post from 2018, but the charge was not laid against Mr. Soudad until December 2020, "which makes it clear that the sentencing is based not on any alleged harm caused by his post but is rather, solely due to his Christian faith," the signatories raised.

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The diverse coalition shared that the Algerian government are indirectly penalizing conversion since, "renouncing or disbelieving Islam is considered blasphemy." The penalty is also disproportionate to the perceived harm incurred, with the five-year prison sentence for a social media post being the same minimum sentence required in Algeria for crimes such as selling, distributing, or storing bladed weapons for illicit purposes.

The human rights organizations and activists call on the Special Rapporteur to urge the Algerian authorities to release Hamid Soudad "immediately and unconditionally" and that they "review their legislation to be in line with International Law and its human rights commitments, repealing its blasphemy laws and Ordonnance 06-03."

Since the submission of the letter USCIRF held a hearing on the situation of religious freedom in Algeria last week where USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza shared that Algerian authorities "continue to stifle opposition and enforce restrictive laws and policies." The hearing mentioned the Algerian government's shuttering of 16 churches and also places of worship for Ahmadiyya Muslims.

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Algeria's most recent violation of human rights and religious freedom is their likely involvement in the enforced disappearance, abduction, and deportation of Algerian political activist and formally recognized refugee, Slimane Bouhafs, from Tunisia to Algeria the end of August 2021.

Several organizations have released statements condemning the abduction and arrest of Slimane Bouhafs:

- Minority Rights Group joint-statement (https://minorityrights.org/2021/08/30/suleiman-...)
- Amnesty International: Algerian refugee deported from Tunisia now Imprisoned in Algeria (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release...)
- Jubilee Campaign: Christian political refugee abducted, disappeared, repatriated to him country for likely prosecution (https://jubileecampaign.org/press-release-alger...).

Source: Set My People Free

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