Pastor’s Prison Sentence Upheld Over ‘Illegal Worship’ Case in Algeria

A court in the African country of Algeria last week upheld a year-long prison sentence for a prominent pastor convicted of “illegal worshiping.”

According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, the Court of Appeal in Tizi Ouzou issued the verdict against Pastor Youssef Ourahamane of Emmanuel Church in Algeria.

Pastor Ourahamane has been a top leader in the Église Protestante d’Algérie (Protestant Church of Algeria, or EPA) association for many years.

“No one should be punished, let alone face prison, for exercising their right to religious freedom,” said Kelsey Zorzi, director of advocacy for Global Religious Freedom for ADF International. “The decision of the Appellate Court to uphold Pastor Youssef’s conviction and sentence amounts to a blatant violation of his rights under both Algerian and international law and must be condemned.”

The Algerian pastor, who converted from Islam, was sentenced to two years in prison in July 2023 and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars for leading his church, though prosecutors provided no evidence of a crime.

Ourahamane appealed the conviction a second time to the Appellate Court in Tizi Ouzo, but the judge last week upheld it and added a six-month suspended prison sentence to his one-year term, in addition to the fine.

“The international community must continue to advocate for the rights of all Algerians to freely live out their faith and worship in community without fear of persecution,” Zorzi said.

According the ADF, authorities have targeted Pastor Ourahamane with legal charges since 2008.

“In the 1970s, the government gave out licenses to churches which were largely full of expats,” Pastor Ourahamane said. “Today the government is concerned that our churches are almost entirely filled with large numbers of Algerian converts, and they therefore want to suppress the spread of the Gospel among us.”