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Algeria: Daughter's fears for imprisoned father during Ramadan

05 June 2017

Daughter's fears for imprisoned father during Ramadan

The daughter of an Algerian Christian serving three years in jail for allegedly 'insulting Islam and the prophet Muhammad' on Facebook says she's worried about the abuse her father could suffer during Ramadan.

Slimane Bouhafs, who was sentenced eight months ago, was at first incarcerated in Setif Prison. He was then transferred to Constantine Prison and has recently been moved for a third time to the coastal city of Jijel, almost 200 miles east of the capital Algiers. This latest transfer took place despite the family's request that he be moved to a prison in Béjaïa, in the Kabylie region where the family is from and where there is a relatively large Christian community.

Both Constantine and Jijel are known to have radical Islamist movements, and Bouhafs' family fears that in Ramadan inter-religious tensions could increase. Slimane's daughter, Thilleli, says: "In Constantine Prison, my father suffered physical assaults and his psychological condition seriously deteriorated. At the approach of the month of Ramadan, his situation seriously worries us because he is a Christian."

Rally in support of Slimane

On 23 May, the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) organised a rally in support of Bouhafs, who converted to Christianity in 1997 and is a well-known social activist, in Béjaïa's city centre. A LADDH statement said the Algerian government had been responsible for 'repeated violations of human rights and freedoms' and demanded the 'the release of all detainees of political or religious opinions'.

Weight loss

After his earlier transfer from a prison in Setif to Constantine, the LADDH criticised the move as an 'an arbitrary decision ... to take him further away from his family'. Thilleli said in a post on Facebook that her father had lost half his bodyweight during the space of two months adding, "My father's inflammatory rheumatism, which can only be treated with a specific diet which is impossible to get in prison, is taking a terrible toll on him."

Bouhafs was originally sentenced to five years, but this was reduced to three on appeal. Thilleli stressed that her father had only shared someone else's posts on Facebook, saying: "I wonder why there is this rage against my father, who did not have a high profile on Facebook."

According to LADDH vice-president, Said Salhi, the verdict was a result of an 'abusive' use of article 144 (bis) of the Algerian legal code. He called for a change to this legislation and criticised 'the policy of double standards' in Algerian justice, citing various cases of arrests of non-fasters during Ramadan in recent years. Some were soon released, under pressure from local communities, while others - who did not have this support in their respective regions - were brought to court and ended up in jail.

Church in Kabylie

Slimane Bouhafs is from Kabylie in Algeria's Berber region, where the church has grown significantly in recent decades. Bouhafs' conviction could be seen as a means of silencing him because of his political activism. He belongs to a movement seeking the self-determination of Kabylie (known as MAK), a group not tolerated by the authorities. MAK activists are regularly harassed and arrested, while the Kabylie region has always had a tumultuous relationship with the central government in Algiers.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Please pray:

  • For God to protect Slimane during this time and to give his family His peace
  • For Slimane's health and weight to recover and stabilise
  • Thanking God for those who are speaking up for Slimane - that justice will be done.

More News from Algeria:

Find out more about persecution in Algeria.