On October 5, an Algerian court will hand down its verdict in the trial of two construction workers arrested on August 12. Their crime? They took a lunch break and drank water at their work place in the middle of the Ramadan fasting period.
The two men are Christian and therefore not religiously compelled to observe the Muslim fast. They were charged and detained in accordance with an Algerian law that bans any Algerian citizen from "causing offence to the Prophet and the Messengers of God, or denigrating the dogma of Islam". The public prosecutor has called for a three year prison sentence.
On September 21, dozens of protesters gathered in front of the courthouse in Aïn el-Amman, in northern Algeria, where the two men’s trial was held to call for greater freedom of religious expression for Algeria’s Christian minority. The Algerian ministry of religious affairs estimates there are 11,000 Christians living in the country, but Christian leaders say that figure is grossly underestimated.
"In that case, why don't they just jail all the smokers?"
Mourad Sadi, 46, lives in Paris, but he travelled to Algeria to take part in the protest supporting the two workers.
This comment was written by our Observer, it does not represent France 24’s views.
There were several hundred of us protesting in front of the courthouse. There were Christians singing hymns, atheists, members of the movement for the autonomy of Kabylie (a northern Algerian province). The crowd was very angry, shouting slogans like "The government is a murderer!" and "Freedom to Kabylie!"
We narrowly avoided a confrontation with armed forces, which had been sent en masse to the protest site. The crowd left the premises around noon.
The State says that not observing the Ramadan fast is against the Algerian Constitution. This is nonsense, and it is unacceptable. In that case, why don’t they just jail all the smokers who inhale smoke during Ramadan? These arrests violate the principle of freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by a UN convention that Algeria has signed, but does not comply with.
There are Islamists in positions of power putting pressure on the whole government. But they can’t force everyone, including non Muslims, to follow the precepts of Islam! The Kabyle people are not Arabs, many have no real attachment to Islam. In any case, if the two men are sentenced to jail, people will not accept the decision. It could cause a direct confrontation between Christians and Muslims."
Photos of the September 21 protest
Photos taken by Mourad Sadi.