Algerian Christian on hunger strike after being jailed for blasphemy

An Algerian Christian has gone on hunger strike in prison after being accused of blasphemy.

Slimane Bouhafs was sentenced to five years in prison last August for a post on Facebook that was considered insulting to Islam and the Prophet Mohammad. Due to rapidly declining health his family applied for parole but a court rejected the appeal last Monday, prompting Bouhafs to go on hunger strike, according to Middle East Concern.

Slimane Bouhafs was arrested on 31 July 2016 for posting a message on social media about the light of Jesus overcoming the 'lie' of Islam and its prophet.Middle East Concern

He is demanding transfer to a prison in Bejia, his home region, after contracting gout and suffering abuse from fellow prisoners because of his faith. Despite support from medical documents proving the seriousness of his condition plus a record of good conduct, the court denied his plea for parole as it was 'without justification', according to the watchdog.

Bouhafs says he is in danger in prison because of his Christian faith, according to another persecution monitoring site, World Watch Monitor, after he converted from Islam in 1997.

It comes after he wrote on social media about the 'lie' of Islam and its prophet as well as sharing pictures of a terrorist executing a civilian. His five-year sentence, later reduced to three, is 'severe in view of a rather minor offence' according to World Watch Monitor with similar comments common on social media in Algeria without triggering the wrath of the authorities.

But his arrest may also be linked to his political activism because he belongs to a separatist group known as MAK, which is calling for the self-determination of the Kabylie region.

Support for Bouhafs remains strong with Said Salhi, vice-president of Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH), calling his sentence 'part of an escalation' against opponents of the government. He accused the regime of being responsible for 'repeated violations of human rights and freedoms' and demanded 'the release of all detainees of political or religious opinions'.