[JURIST] An appeals court in the Algerian city of Setif on Tuesday upheld the conviction [AI report] of Slimane Bouhafs, a man the court says slandered Islam and the Prophet Muhammed. Bouhaf’s lawyer claims his client only criticized political Islam in a Facebook discussion with non-Algerian Christians. On August 7, the trial court found otherwise, ruling that those Facebook posts were offensive to the prophet, and the appeals court agreed. Now, international human rights groups are calling for [AI press release] Bouhaf’s “immediate and unconditional release.”
The Algerian government has been taking steps to become more transparent recently, but some critics wonder if these steps are enough. Most drastically, the nation adopted [JURIST report] a package of constitutional reforms in February, which included a two-term limit for the office of the president. In November an Algerian trial court sentenced [JURIST report] former counter-terrorism chief Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi, also known as General Hassan, to five years in prison for allegedly breaching orders and destroying documents. Despite these steps, interest groups have been critical of Algeria, for Bouhafs’ conviction and also generally for failure to remedy human rights abuses [HRW reports].