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Posted in: Algeria, Christian Persecution, Christian Persecution - Africa

By BosNewsLife News Center

ALGIERS, ALGERIA (BosNewsLife) — A Christian evangelist was due to appear in an Algerian court Wednesday, June 25, on charges related to "attempting to shake the Muslim faith," after allegedly receiving death threats.

Convicted of blasphemy and evangelism in two separate cases this year, Rachid Muhammad Essaghir, 37, was to go on trial again in Tissemsilt, 350 kilometers (220 miles) southwest of Algiers.

Essaghir, whose last name has also been spelled as Seghir, has said he is currently targeted for his work with Christians and for posting his telephone number on evangelistic Chris tian satellite television programs. He also claimed that he received death threats from Algerian journalist Haitham Rabani, who tracks Christianity in the country.

Rabani has denied the charges, but reportedly admitted to sending him text messages and threatening the host of a Christian television talk show who is also named Rachid. “I told him, 'If I capture you, I will kill you,'" Rabani was quoted as saying in news reports, adding that he had not meant to carry out the threat.

COURT CASE POSTPONED

Last week the court postponed the trial to June 25 because the main lawyer of Essaghir and a fellow defendant was unable to attend the hearing for personal reasons, said church leader Mustapha Krim.

Troubles began last year when officers reportedly stopped Essaghir and another Christian in the vicinity of Tissemsilt in June 2007 and discovered a box of Chris tian books in their car. The legal troubles began June last year when police  stopped Essaghir and a Christian co-worker for allegedly transporting Christian literature from one church to another.

Prosecutors accused them of "distributing documents to shake the faith of Muslims." This month Essaghir already received a six-month suspended sentence and a 200,000-dinar (US$3,282) fine on similar charges.

Christians Chabane Beikel, Abdelhak Rebeih and Djillali Saibi were each given two-month suspended sentences and 100,000-dinar (US$1,640) fines in that same period,  trial observers said. Two other men,  Mohamed Khene and Abdelkader Hori, were reportedly acquitted.

DEFENDING HIS ACTIONS

Essaghir has reportedly defended his actions saying, "We are Christians and we are not ashamed to say it."

Rights groups say the trials are part of an ongoing crackdown on Christian converts in this mainly Muslim nation since 2006, when a controversial law was passed demanding non-Muslim congregations seek permits from regional authorities.

Under the controversial legislation  Algerians can also be fined up to 1 million dinars ($16,405) and sentenced to five years in prison for printing, storing or distributing materials intended to convert Muslims away from Islam.

In a separate case, another Christian convert, Habiba Kouider, is facing a court after she was discovered carrying a dozen bibles. Her first court appearance, again on a charge of practising a non-Muslim religion without permission, saw the court in Tiaret reportedly demand a further investigation. The prosecution has demanded a three-year sentence.

Copyright 2008 BosNewsLife. All rights reserved.
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