Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Algerian Christian Sentenced Beyond Prosecutor’s Request

The Christian community in Algeria was left stunned when Christian convert Siaghi Krimo was sentenced beyond what the prosecutor had recommended in the criminal court on May 25.

Krimo had given a CD about Christianity to his neighbor. His neighbor then accused him of proselytizing and alleged that Krimo had insulted Muhammad, both of which are crimes in Algeria. At the trial, the court sentenced Krimo to a prison term of five years and fined him 200,000 Algerian dinars (US $2,760). The prosecutor had requested the judge sentence him to just two years in prison and a fine of only 50,000 Algerian dinars (US $690).

“The hearing went well, and the lawyer defended well, yet in the end the judge gave him the maximum punishment.” said the president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), Mustapha Krim.

Authorities arrested Krimo on Apr. 14 and held him in jail for three days. The authorities first took Krimo to his house. They ransacked his belongings and confiscated his Bible, CDs, computer, and flash discs. On May 4 he appeared before the court, where the prosecutor requested a two-year sentence. The neighbor who had accused Krimo, who was the only witness, was not present.

Defense lawyer Mohamed Ben Belkacem said that the judge’s verdict was surprisingly heavy. He plans to appeal the case. “These types of cases are full of unexpected, last-minute developments, so it is difficult for me to envision the outcome,” said Blekacem.

Krim said that if the court starts interpreting the law as it did in Krimo’s case, then the future of Algeria’s Christians is grim. Krimo will not be required to serve his prison sentence until the court hears his appeal and upholds the conviction.—Compass News Service

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