Algeria. Drop all charges against members of a religious minority

Algerian authorities must immediately drop all charges against 18 followers of the Ahmadi religion of peace and light, a minority group, and release three of them who have been imprisoned since June, Amnesty International said today. 2022, on the eve of the opening of their trial on September 6 for “participation in an unauthorized group” and “denigration of Islam”.

“That these people are being detained and prosecuted because of their religious beliefs is a travesty of justice,” said Amna Guellali, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. They must be allowed to practice their religion peacefully without risking intimidation and reprisals. »

Three followers of this religion are still detained while their lawyers have filed requests for release three times. The court denied these requests on the grounds that the investigation is ongoing.

That these people are detained and prosecuted because of their religious beliefs is a travesty of justice

Amna Guellali, Amnesty International

During an interview with Amnesty International before his arrest and imprisonment, Redouane Foufa, coordinator of the faithful of this minority in Bejaïa, declared that about thirty soldiers had searched the house he shared with other members of the group and seized identity cards, passports, telephones and laptops.

Yasmine Guissi, the niece of Redouane Foufa, said: “At the beginning, the families were optimistic. We thought they were going to be released, but it just kept dragging on and now it’s really hard. Their children keep asking, ‘Where’s Dad? “. The children are not allowed to visit them and anyway the family can only see them once every two weeks. »

Souhila Benkaddour, the wife of Cherif Mohamed Ali, another member of the detained group, discovered that she was pregnant after her husband’s arrest, but was unable to tell him the news. Cherif learned about it two weeks later from his lawyer.

She told Amnesty International: “When I discovered my pregnancy, after four years of waiting, I kept the pictures of our baby in my womb from the first ultrasound to show my husband when he came out of jail. Today I experience another joy while he is away – I learned that our baby is a little boy. God willing, my husband will be present by my side during the delivery. »

Additional information

The 18 followers of the Ahmadi religion of peace and light appear before the court of first instance in Bejaïa on September 6. They are charged under Article 46 of the Law on Associations and Article 144 bis-2 of the Algerian Penal Code.

The current of the Ahmadi religion of peace and light was established in 1993. It follows the teachings of Imam Mahdi and considers Imam Ahmed al Hassan as its spiritual guide. It currently has some 70 active members in Algeria. Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Algeria has ratified, governments must guarantee the right to freedom of religion, thought and conscience of all persons under their jurisdiction, and especially religious minorities. This right includes the freedom to manifest the religion or belief of one’s choice, individually or in community, both in public and in private.

However, in 2006, Algeria adopted Decree 06-03, which imposed restrictions on the exercise of religions other than Islam. Between 2017 and 2022, Algerian authorities used this decree, along with the Penal Code, to prosecute hundreds of non-Sunni believers and shut down several Protestant temples.

Algeria’s new Constitution, adopted in November 2020, removed freedom of religion and belief from the Rights and Freedoms Chapter, and only confirmed the “freedom to practice religion”, while specifying that it “must be practiced in compliance with the law”.

Algeria. Drop all charges against members of a religious minority