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Algerian pastor appeals ‘illegal worship’ conviction

by Heather Preston
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A pastor in Algeria is appealing a conviction for “illegal worshipping”, after leading a church service there resulted in a two-year prison sentence and 100,000 Algerian dinars (£586).

Christian-convert and church leader Youssef Ourahamane was convicted of the crime of illegally worshipping at Emmanuel Church, in July last year.

Supported by Christian legal group ADF International, Pastor Youssef is set to appeal his conviction for the second time on the grounds of religious freedom.

Youssef has led Christian congregations in the Muslim majority country for over 30 years and is a leading figure in the Èglise Protestante d’Algérie (EPA) – a Protestant network of churches.

The EPA has had 43 of its churches shut down by the government in the past five years, following alleged “health and safety concerns”, which ADF says allows the authorities to declare worship inside the buildings illegal. Just one EPA church remains open to date.

“No one should be criminally punished or imprisoned for practicing their faith,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom for ADF International.

“Pastor Youssef faces criminal charges for simply holding worship services for his congregation. The government’s prosecution of Pastor Youssef amounts to a blatant violation of his right to religious freedom and must be condemned.”

Blasphemy and anti-proselytism laws in Algeria make it hard for Christians to freely exercise their faith, with punishments including fines and imprisonment.

Content that is “contrary to Islamic morals” is also prohibited.

ADF has called on the international community to advocate for the rights of all Algerians to “freely live out their faith and worship in community without fear of persecution.”


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