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Human Rights Body Demands Release of Algerian Christian Detained for Abandoning Islam

Sulieman Buhafss. Credit: CSW

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights foundation, is demanding the release of an Alafia Christian man who has been on the wrong side of the government for abandoning Islam in favor of Christianity.

CSW leadership reports that 53-year-old Sulieman Buhafss was first arrested in Algeria on 31 July 2016 and was accused of converting to Christianity and defaming Islam.

“He was initially sentenced to five years in prison, but this was later reduced to three years. In July 2020 he received a presidential pardon, a customary tradition in which some prisoners are pardoned on Independence Day, and he was released after spending 20 months in prison,” the organization says in a Tuesday, August 31 report.

Upon his release, Mr. Buhafss moved to Tunisia, where he applied for asylum and registered with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to the Christian organization, Buhafss was arrested by secret police in Tunisia on August 25. He was reportedly repatriated and handed over to the Algerian authorities.

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The organization’s President, Mervyn Thomas, says in the August 31 report that Buhafss’ arrest and repatriation from Tunisia is a violation of the country’s regional and constitutional obligations.

“CSW is alarmed at the arrest and subsequent refoulement of Sulieman Buhafss in violation of Tunisia’s international, regional and constitutional obligations,” Mr. Mervyn says.

He adds, “In returning Mr. Buhafss to Algeria, the Tunisian authorities have handed him over to a government which is already responsible for comprehensive violations of his right to freedom of religion or belief.”

“We call on the Algerian authorities to ensure that Mr. Buhafss is released immediately and without condition, and that he does not face further spurious charges relating to his religious belief,” the CSW President says.

According to the report by the Christian foundation, Mr. Buhafss is expected to be tried for his membership in the Movement for Self-Determination for the Kabylie (Le MAK), a political organization that defends the rights of the Berber people, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the Algerian authorities in May 2021.

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The 53-year-old is said to have converted to Christianity over 20 years ago and founded the St. Augustin Commission for Defending Algerian Christians.

Prior to his arrest in 2016, Mr. Buhafss regularly discussed issues relating to Christianity and Islam on social media, CSW leadership has reported.