A Christian man in Algeria who suffers from poor health was sentenced to three years in prison and slapped with a hefty fine after proclaiming Jesus' power over Islam in a series of Facebook posts.
Slimani Bouhafs, 49, who converted to Christianity in 1997, was arrested in July and charged with blasphemy 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.
On Tuesday, Bouhafs was officially sentenced to three years in prison by an appeals court in the Muslim majority country, The court's judgement said Bouhafs had "shared four distorted Koranic verses and photos offensive to the Prophet, as well as articles denigrating the Islamic religion," and that his conviction was on the basis of a series of online posts between May and June 2016.
These included "a caricature representing the Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist" and other posts "slandering Islam as a religion of intolerance and hatred."
Human rights campaigners have slammed the ruling and called for Bouhafs' release: "Algerian courts have no business judging people's religious beliefs and opinions," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"Algeria should urgently revise its penal code to stop criminalizing peaceful free expression, including views that may insult Islam and the prophet," she said.
The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights has also condemned Bouhafs' verdict.
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.
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."