An Algerian Christian has been sentenced to a year in jail after he was convicted of offending Islam on his Facebook page.
Samir Chamek, a 33-year-old theater actor in Algeria’s northern area of Wilaya de Bouira, was detained by the police after cyber-crime officers saw pictures and comments on his Facebook page that were considered to be offensive towards Islam. He was charged under Article 144, which prohibits any “writing, drawing, statement or any other means” that denigrates Muhammad or the precepts of Islam.
Chamek, who converted from Islam in 2005, said the interrogation conducted by the security forces at the police station frightened him.
“The atmosphere inside made me think of the interrogations that one sees on films. Even though I had no reason to be afraid, I was afraid. Yes, the atmosphere curled my hair and turned my insides,” Chamek told Morning Star News.
An officer then ordered him to open his Facebook page on the police computer and print the entire content, including photos, links on Quranic verses, and other subjects. Chamek said that the interrogation was focused on Quranic verses and caricatures, some of which were about Muhammad.
After being interrogated for five hours, he received a summons to appear before a judge, who asked him the same questions he had answered at the police station. He initially received a two-year sentence and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (US $450), but the judge gave him a harsher verdict.
“The judge of the court, in agreement with the attorney general, condemned me in my absence to five years in prison and to pay a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars, accusing me of having infringed Islam and the person of the prophet,” he said.
After he received his five-year sentence, Chamek secured an attorney in Bouira and appealed his case. Earlier this month, his sentenced was reduced to one year and the fine was cancelled.
His attorney, believing that he should not be punished in any way based on freedom of speech and religion, is planning to appeal the case to the Supreme Court in Algiers.
An Algerian Christian named Slimane Bouhafs was also accused of offending Islam and Muhammad in a Facebook post. He was sentenced by the Court of Setif to three years’ imprisonment last September.