Human Rights Watch criticises Algeria's closure of churches and crackdown

30.10.2019

Algerian authorities should re-open recently shuttered Protestant churches, Human Rights Watch said last Thursday, describing the closures as the latest example of repression of the religious minority in the country.

Last week, authorities closed several churches in Tizi Ouzou, located east of the capital Algiers, saying that they did not have required permits. They included the Full Gospel Church, the biggest Protestant church in the North African country, which has been operating since 1996.

Echorouk newspaper reported last week that the church had received a warning it would be closed.

Human Rights Watch said police forces raided the church on 15 October and assaulted worshippers, including Salah Chalah, the church's pastor and president of the Protestant Church of Algeria.

Shortly after, police shut two other churches in Tizi Ouzou province, HRW added.

"The government should immediately re-open the churches and publicly commit to protecting freedom for all religious communities in Algeria," HRW said in a statement.

On 17 October, police arrested dozens of Protestants who had been protesting the crackdown in front of the Tizi Ouzou provincial headquarters. They were later released.

These recent closures bring to 12 the number of Protestant churches the authorities have closed since November 2018 for not having the required permits, the Protestant Church of Algeria told HRW, adding that authorities rarely approve their applications.  

Algeria is a Muslim-dominated country. The constitution allows religious freedom that must be exercised "in respect of the law". Proselytising by non-Muslims is a criminal offence punished by a fine and jail term.    (dpa)

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