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Algeria: UN concerned about prison sentence against Christian citizen on charges of insulting Islam 

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News briefing 

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: 25 January 2022

UN experts expressed their concerns about the conviction of an Algerian citizen named Hamid Soudad (42 years old), from the Protestant Christian minority in Algeria, and residing in the wilaya of Oran, who was sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars for insulting Islam.

Court proceedings: 

The experts explained in their memorandum sent to the Algerian government, on November 26, 2021, that in December 2020, the Algerian authorities accused Soudad of insulting Islam, for having published in June 2018 on his Facebook a cartoon criticizing Prophet Muhammad’s marriage with Aisha, emphasizing her young age in a satirical way.

On January 20, 2021, he was asked to go to the Arzew police station, where he was arrested, and the next day the prosecution summoned him, so that the Court of First Instance in Arzew issued a sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars (about $722), without allowing him to meet with his lawyer

UN concerns of violations of the right to freedom of expression: 

The experts expressed their serious concerns about the conviction of Hamid Soudad, which appears to be directly related to the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and peaceful expression, as well as his right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which is guaranteed by international human rights covenants. 

The experts also expressed deep concerns about the manner in which the authorities would have conducted the investigation and trial against Soudad, noting in particular the absence of his lawyer and the expeditious nature of his trial, factors which, if confirmed, are inconsistent with the guarantees of due process and the right of everyone to a fair trial, according to article 14 of the ICCPR.

UN demands from Algeria:   

The experts called on the Algerian authorities to provide information on the factual and legal basis for the arrest and detention of Hamid Soudad and his immediate detention, and to clarify how these measures comply with Algeria’s international obligations. 

The experts called on Algeria to clarify what appears to be a disproportionate judgment between the alleged harm and the charge and the severity of the conviction and sentence – the maximum set by law – and how this is consistent with Algeria’s human rights obligations, and to indicate the extent to which laws relating to desecration, blasphemy and apostasy are compatible with Algeria’s international obligations in the field of human rights in particular the ICCPR.

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