June 23rd 2021 | USCIRF

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned several court decisions in Algeria that restrict Christians’ religious freedom in the country.

Recent decisions by Algerian courts to sentence Christians accused of blasphemy and proselytizing to multi-year prison sentences and to seal protestant churches that have been forcibly closed demonstrates the country is headed in the wrong direction,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza.

Christians in Algeria have faced significant challenges in recent months. On March 22, the Oran City Court of Justice upheld a five-year prison sentence issued against 42-year-old Christian Hamid Soudad for insulting the Prophet Mohammad. On June 6, a court in Oran sentenced city pastor and bookstore owner Rachid Mohamed Seighir to one year in prison for “printing, storing, or distributing materials that can ‘shake’ the faith of a Muslim.” On June 4, an administrative court in Oran ordered the physical sealing of three protestant churches that had been forcibly closed by the government in 2020 – the appeal to the closures is ongoing.

These court decisions are blatant attempts to deny Algerian Christians their right to freedom of religion and belief. We encourage U.S. government officials to attend the appeals for these rulings to demonstrate our firm commitment to religious freedom for Christians and all religious minorities in Algeria,” said USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie.

In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Algeria for its “Special Watch List” for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).