Charges Against Algerian Pastor for ‘Illegal Worshipping’ Upheld

Charges Against Algerian Pastor for ‘Illegal Worshipping’ Upheld

A conviction against a pastor in Algeria for “illegal worshipping” was once again upheld in an appeals court last week.

On May 2, the Court of Appeal in Tizi Ouzo upheld the charge against Pastor Youssef Ourahamane for leading a church. Ourahamane is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International.

Ourahamane converted to Christ from Islam and has been leading congregations for over 30 years. Algerian authorities have worked to systematically close the doors of nearly every evangelical church in the country—only one of the churches in Youssef’s evangelical denomination, the Protestant Church of Algeria, remains open.

Ourahamane was convicted of “illegal worshipping” for leading his church and was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars in July of last year. In November, his prison sentence was reduced to one year. Last week, the Appellate Court in Tizi Ouzo upheld the conviction against him and added six months to his prison sentence.

“We are deeply disappointed to learn that the Court of Appeal in Tizi Ouzou did not overturn Pastor Youssef Ourahamane’s conviction or reduce his sentence,” said Kelsey Zorzi, director of advocacy for global religious freedom for ADF International. “No one should be punished, let alone face prison, for exercising their right to religious freedom. … We are hopeful that the Supreme Court of Algeria will hear Pastor Youssef’s case and finally and fully acquit him so that he can resume his duties as a pastor.”

Algeria is No. 15 on the Open Doors World Watch List for 2024—a ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution—with 99% of the population identifying as Sunni Muslim and Islam as the official state religion. The nation’s constitution recognizes freedom of speech and worship, but these freedoms are not borne out in practice as anti-blasphemy laws, anti-proselytism laws, censorship of content “contrary to Islamic morals” and other factors limit freedoms of Christians and other religious groups.

“The international community must continue to advocate for the rights of all Algerians to freely live out their faith and worship in community without fear of persecution,” Zorzi said.

Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom International

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