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Algeria: One year of prison for Facebook post

03 April 2017

A 34-year-old Algerian Christian man is appealing a sentence of one year's imprisonment for a post he made on Facebook in 2015.

On Sunday, 8 January 2017, the court in Bouira (60 miles east of Algiers) gave the verdict to the man who was accused of insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammed. After hearing this, the believer announced he would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Samir Chamek was prosecuted for writings he published on his Facebook page that were deemed 'outrageous and offensive' to Islam and the prophet Mohammed. In December 2015, cybercrime officers of the Bouira judicial police spotted on the suspect's Facebook page the publication of photos and commentaries. The police said that Samir Chamek was 'accusing the prophet Mohammed of terrorism and murder and comparing the prophet to Hitler, mentioning the persecution and massacre of the Jews'.

Samir was arrested and detained by the police on 6 December 2015 and then released. "I was arrested and taken to the police station where I was interrogated for nearly five hours. I was asked to open my Facebook page, which I did," Samir said.

Tracking the trial

On 3 July 2016, Samir was tried before the judge and fined 100,000 Algerian Dinar (over £700) although the public prosecutor had requested a sentence of two years of prison and 50,000 Dinar. Not satisfied with this verdict, the representative of the Public Prosecutor appealed that judgement and an appeal hearing took place on 2 October in the absence of the accused. The Public Prosecutor then asked for the maximum penalty provided for in Article 144 bis, namely five years' imprisonment. On 16 October the court condemned Samir to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Dinar. He appealed against that judgement and the hearing took place on 25 December.

The verdict fell on 8 January 2017. The judge upheld the prison sentence against Samir Chamek, reducing it to one year and cancelling the financial fine. "I will appeal to the Supreme Court," Samir said. "I explained to the judge that I only shared publications from other people and that I do not master computer and French very well," he said in his defence. (Algeria was a French colony, which is why many Algerians still speak French. In the Berber region of the country, most people speak their own Berber language and Arabic and some speak French.)

Not the first

Samir is not the first Christian to be taken to court for a Facebook post. On 6 September 2016, another Algerian Christian, Bouhafs Slimane, was sentenced by the Court of Setif (120 miles east of Algiers) to three years in prison. He also was accused for offending Islam and the prophet with a post on Facebook. The family of Bouhafs have requested presidential pardon but that has so far not been given. Bouhafs is currently in prison.

Source: Open Doors; World Watch Monitor

Please pray:

  • For Samir and Bouhafs to receive justice and mercy and be released
  • For God to give them His grace to be His faithful witnesses whilst in prison
  • For God's love and presence to be with all believers in Algeria whose faith engenders persecution.

More News from Algeria:

Find out more about persecution in Algeria.