TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria — A pastor and employee sentenced in absentia for offering Christian materials in a church bookstore saw their punishment reduced June 6 on appeal.
The penalty for Pastor Rachid Seighir and bookstore salesman Nouh Hamimi is now a one-year suspended sentence and fine of 200,000 dinars (approximately $1,500), down from two years in prison and 500,000 dinars.
In 2008, Seighir was convicted of the same charges and acquitted on appeal.
The governor of Oran, where Seighir’s Oratoire Church is located, ordered the bookstore closed in 2017, a move ruled invalid in 2018. However, authorities kept it closed. Algeria’s Law 03/06 criminalizes publication and distribution of materials “which aim to undermine the faith of a Muslim.” Islam is the state religion of Algeria.
On July 15, 2020, three churches — Seighir’s church, Ain Turk House of Hope and El Ayaida church — were issued court-ordered closures but remain open. It is currently unknown when the implementation order will be executed.
Algeria is No. 24 on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of places most difficult to be a Christian.