Amnesty International condemns religious oppression in Algeria

Amnesty International said today that the Algerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release three members of the Ahmadi religion of peace and light, and drop all charges against them, who were arrested earlier this week solely for have peacefully exercised their right to freedom of religion.

Authorities must also drop all charges against the other 21 members of the group, who are currently out on bail pending an investigation.

The 24 men who identify as members of an Ahmadi religious group were charged on June 6, 2022 by the Béjaïa Court of First Instance with “participation in an unauthorized group” and “denigration of Islam”, respectively. , under article 46 of the law on associations and article 144 bis 2 of the Algerian penal code. Three members were ordered to be detained immediately, while the others were released pending further investigation. On June 8, their lawyer appealed the decision.

“The Algerian authorities have a legal obligation to respect, preserve, promote and fulfill the right of everyone in the country to freedom of religion, including those who hold religious beliefs different from the majority. Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “It is absurd that a group of people end up in prison simply for practicing their faith or for their opinions.

“All allegations against the three arrested men and the other 21 members of the Ahmadi religion of peace and light must be immediately and unconditionally dropped by the Algerian authorities. »

Prior to his detention, Redouane Foufa, the coordinator of the Béjaïa religious group, told Amnesty International that Algerian authorities had been intimidating and harassing the group since April 2022.

On April 2, they interrogated them about their religious beliefs and took their passports, phones and laptops. On June 7, they returned their passports but kept their personal devices.

The 24 gang members were detained for 13 hours by police in Béjaïa on June 5. They interrogated the adults and obtained their fingerprints and photos.

According to Nadia Saliba, a member of the group and wife of imprisoned Khireddine Ahman, an officer told them they were traitors to Islam and did not deserve the privileges of citizenship.

Members of the group were told that they would have to appear in court the next morning and that their children would not be allowed to attend Algerian schools until the following year.

On June 6, the group of 24 people spent 14 hours in court until three of them were charged and sent to Oued Ghir prison in Béjaïa: Redouane Foufa, coordinator of the movement in Béjaïa, and two other members , Khireddine Ahman and Cherif Mohamed Ali.

In 1993, the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light was founded. He adheres to the teachings of Imam Mahdi and considers Imam Ahmed al-Hassan as his spiritual guide. In Algeria, there are now more than 70 members.

“It is ridiculous that a group of individuals should be imprisoned for practicing their faith or holding their beliefs.” Amna Guellali of Amnesty International said

According to Hadil El Khouly, spokesman for the organization, members of the Ahmadi religion of peace and light in Béjaïa have been questioned by the police on 10 occasions in the past three months.

Prior to his arrest, Redouane Foufa told Amnesty International that around 30 soldiers searched the house where he lives with the other members of the group and seized documents such as identity cards and passports, as well as telephones and laptop computers.

“We lived quietly in our house,” Youssra Bezai, another member of the religious minority, told Amnesty International. We have never attempted to take our ideals outside the classroom. They are the ones who came to us and violated our privacy and our rights.

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