A Christian man in Algeria who suffers from poor health was sentenced to five years in prison and slapped with a hefty fine after allegedly blaspheming Islam and Prophet Muhammad in a social media post.
49-year-old limane Bouhafs, who converted to Christianity in 1997, was arrested in July after taking to Facebook to post a message about the light of Jesus overcoming the "lie" of Islam and its prophet. He also published photos showing the execution of a civilian by an Islamist terrorist, according to World Watch Monitor.
In the conservative Muslim country, the penal code for "blasphemy" provides for a penalty of three to five years in prison, along with a heavy fine against anyone convicted of insulting Islam and Muhammad. Bouhafs was given the maximum sentence.
Bouhafs' 27-year-old son, Larbi, attended the sentence, which was handed down earlier this week.
"The court sentenced my father to the maximum sentence! I qualify the crime of opinion matter, because my father was expressing his ideas and spread his political views on social networks as it has always done elsewhere. It is an attack on freedom of expression because, in my
opinion, everything is subject to criticism, even religions."
The Christian man's family has expressed deep concern over his imprisonment, believing his health may deteriorate as he goes to prison. According to his daughter, he suffers from inflammatory rheumatism, a disease that worsens under stress. "He needs to follow a special diet," she said.
An anonymous source told the outlet they believe Bouhafa was targeted because of his political activism and said his maximum sentence was "severe in view of a rather minor offense." Such comments on social media are common in Algeria without usually triggering the wrath of the authorities, the source added.
The Protestant Church of Algeria's lawyer will file an appeal of the verdict.
Algeria is number 37 on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, as the law prohibits public assembly for purposes of practicing a faith other than Islam.
"Although he is facing some injustice right now, James 1:2-4 says 'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,'" Open Doors said of Bouhafs. "We know and believe this time will only deepen and strengthen Slimani's faith in Jesus. The Protestant church of Algeria and a human rights organization in Algeria are working hard to see this wrong made right."