An Algerian court has upheld the five-year prison sentence of a Christian who three years ago reposted a cartoon of Islam's prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page.
According to attorney Farid Khemisti, his client – Hamid, a 43-year-old father of four young children – received such a stiff sentence because of his Christian faith.
"I really hoped for a reduction in the sentence – I expected at the worst … six months in prison," Khemisti told Morning Star News (MSN). "That is the maximum that a fair judgment would have given, but I don't think my client's being a Christian made it any easier."
Even though the attorney pointed out his client wasn't the one who created the cartoon – but only reposted it on social media in 2018 – the five-year prison sentence was upheld.
"I pleaded for his release because it is clear that my client does not deserve such a heavy sanction – he is not the source of this post," Khemisti maintained. "The author of the publication in question is abroad. The investigating security services could not find anything else in my client's Facebook account other than this cartoon."
After asking the judge how many years in prison his client would receive if he had been the one who created the cartoon, Khemisti was told the same amount: five years – the maximum sentence for anyone who insults Muhammad, according to the Algerian penal code.
"Algeria's Article 144 has been condemned by numerous human rights organizations as a violation of international law," CBN News reported.
This law is reportedly considered a vehicle for Islamic-led judicial systems to go after Christians in Algeria, which is 99% Muslim and ranked on Open Doors' 2021 World Watch List as being the 24th-most dangerous nation in the world to be a Christian.
"[Article 144 is regularly used to persecute Christians and allows] police officials and judges to impose their own religious perspectives on society, and to give at least one version of Islamic practice the force of law," Freedom House reported.
Hamid's attorney recounted that an Islamic fundamentalist – with whom Hamid did business – accused him.
"[The Muslim] notified the Algerian security services about Hamid's Facebook post in December of 2020 – two years after the alleged posting," CBN News added. "Hamid was taken into custody on Jan. 20 and was sentenced to five years in prison the very next day."
MSN noted that Hamid's family is considering an appeal of the court ruling, as well as appeal to Algeria's supreme court – in a country and region where the persecution of Christians takes place on a regular basis. However, it was also stressed that thousands of Algerian Muslims have converted to Christianity since the beginning of the millennia, with estimates of Christians ranging from 50,000 to 100,000.
"[F]alse accusations are common against Christians in numerous Islamic countries and are often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred," CBN News informed. "Such accusations are highly inflammatory and have the potential to spark Muslim mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests."