An appeals court in the eastern Algerian city of Setif convicted a convert to Christianity for insulting Islam’s prophet and sentenced him to three years in prison.
According to Amnesty International, 49-year-old Slimane Bouhafs was sentenced Tuesday to a five-year prison term following an August 7 trial for offending the prophet, based on his Facebook posts.
His lawyer, Salah Dabouze, said his client had denounced political Islam, but not the religion or the Prophet Muhammad, in a Facebook discussion with non-Algerian Christians.
The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights denounced the verdict, saying it was against the constitution.
Watchdog group Human Rights Watch called for Boufas to be set free without delay.
“The Algerian authorities should immediately release Bouhafs,” HRW said in a statement. “Algerian prosecutors should stop bringing charges against people for their peaceful expression of religious, political, or other views.”
Dabouze told HRW that his client was initially sentenced after a single, late-night court session.
“Algerian courts have no business judging people’s religious beliefs and opinions,” declared Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Algeria should urgently revise its penal code to stop criminalizing peaceful free expression, including views that may insult Islam and the prophet.”