By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
He received the sentence at a July 8 court hearing in Khemis Meliana, in Ain-Defla Province, about 145 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Algiers, reported Christian news agency Morning Star News.
He denies the charges. The Christian also says related allegations – distributing Bibles, printing and distributing Christian literature, and thus “shaking the faith of a Muslim” – are also false.
Beghal has eight days to appeal the sentence and reportedly said he plans to do so.
Algerian officials estimate the number of Christians at 50,000, but others say it could be twice that number.
With people massively turning to Christ, devoted believers such as Beghal reportedly face persecution by Islamic authorities.
“Accusations were brought against me by the National Gendarmerie to the court in a false and forged report,” Beghal added in published remarks.
He told Morning Star News that he had suffered emotionally “because of this injustice and pitfalls on the part of my family, society, court, and security.”
Beghal’s wife and children reportedly left him in 2017 because of his conversion to Christianity, and he said he had faced persecution from others.
“I am going through a very difficult stage through these difficult circumstances and direct public persecution,” Beghal stressed. “There is injustice towards me in my personal and social life.”
He claimed his lawyer, Maitre Kebatti, did not appear at court for the sentencing or a June 30 hearing. Beghal said he was forced to “sign gendarmerie” or special police report without reading it and that the charges were based on this document.
Police detained Beghal on April 17 for no reason, telling him only that “many rumors and accusations are circulating about you – you are very active, it seems,” according to Beghal. After officers questioned him, they took him to his home to search it, Christians said.
The charges were based on Algeria’s 2006 law regulating non-Muslim worship, which criminalizes any activity “which aim to undermine the faith of a Muslim.”
Punishment can range from two to five years in prison and fines of 500,000 to 1 million Algerian dinars (US$3,745 to US$7,490).
In addition, Beghal said, National Gendarmerie in Oued Seli, Chlef Province falsely accused him of threatening his ex-wife and daughters, resulting in interrogation for 15 hours and searching of his home.
Police also arrested him at a café in Khemis-Miliana, Ain Defla Province, without cause and interrogated him for three hours, he told Morning Star News.
Beghal has eight days to appeal the sentence and said he plans to do so.
It underscored concerns of a reported crackdown in Christians mainly converts from Islam, Worthy News learned.
“They are most at risk of persecution, not just from their family and extended family, but from the wider community, which includes local ethnic leaders and elders,” said advocacy group Open Doors in an assessment.
“This can involve harassment, beatings, threats, and imprisonment, as well as pressure to adhere to Islamic customs,” the group added.
Pressure is also exerted by state officials receptive to the teachings of radical Islamic teachers, according to Christians. “They use their influence to limit the freedoms of converts, including preventing them from expressing their views in public,” Open Doors stressed.
Open Doors has ranked Algeria 24th on its annual World Watch List of 50 nations where it says Christians suffer most for their faith.
Christians living in the rural and religiously more conservative parts of Algeria are especially vulnerable, according to experts.
These regions acted as a stronghold for Islamist insurgents in the fight against the government in the 1990s.
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