Algeria: Woman sentenced to 10 years for allegedly damaging a Quran

According to Algerian Newspaper El Watan, last September a young women aged 26 was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Biskra, southern Algeria, where she is already detained for previous offence. She is accused of having damaged a Quran.
This sentence was given by the same judge who already condemned 6 people to four years in prison and a fine of 1000 Euros each for eating during Ramadan. Fortunately this sentence was reversed on appeal and they were recently released.

The case of Samia is now going on appeal. She has been heard and the sentence will be given on October 28,2008.

According to her lawyer, she was initially judged without any defense, and without proof of the facts, on the accusation of two co-detainees.

We are extremely worried about the growing number of Algerian citizens who, despite the fact that the right to freedom of thought and belief enshrined in the Constitution, are heavily sentenced on religious grounds, for supposedly offending Islam. Additionally, there has been several cases of Christians sentenced for practicing their religion.

Source: Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

Trials related to religion growing in Biskra

A woman sentenced to 10 years for violating the Koran

The court of Biskra will consider today the case of a woman sentenced a month ago, to 10 years imprisonment by the trial court for having violated the Koran.

Samia Smets, 26, held in Biskra prison where she is serving a sentence of civil law, was tried last September based on the testimony of two codétenues who, according to their statements, saw her trying to profane and tear a copy of the Koran. Article 160 of the Penal Code, in Section 4, entitled Desecration and degradation, states: "Is punished with imprisonment between 5 to 10 years anyone who voluntarily and publicly destroys, mutilates, degrades or desecrates the holy book." This is an amendment introduced in 1982 following alleged similar acts recorded during the events that shook Tizi Ouzou in April 1980. A first, according a specialist in criminal law, who states that the severity of the court is unprecedented. The judge - the very man who sentenced six people for not fasting in Biskra - pronounced, in fact, the maximum sentence without giving the mitigating circumstances, knowing that the testimony of detainees is not considered as proof of reliabile evidence and knowing that the defendant is not a repeat offender in this regard. It is not the human person, but the offense that was taken into account, says our interlocutor, who states that "the role of justice can not be reduced to automatic distributor of penalties."

Worse, Samia Smets was tried without being defended by a lawyer. A fact that speaks on the role of bâtonnat of Batna to which belongs the region of Biskra and informs us about the fact that Algerians are still unable to enjoy their right to legal defense. Our interlocutor also draws attention to the idea that Article 160 of the Penal Code speaks of "sacred book" without specifying whether the Koran or other books of the monotheistic religions, or all at once.

21 October 2008

Source: El Watan

Par: Nouri Nesrouche

(Translated from the Original French Article "Une femme condamnée à 10 ans ferme pour atteinte au Coran", El Watan, 21 octobre 2008)


Court of Biskra: The case of Samia S. reviewed

Yesterday, the Criminal Court of Biskra had a retrial on appeal, for the case of the younger Samia S., aged 26, accused of having violated the Koran.

In his indictment, the public prosecutor has requested confirmation of the sentence under Article 160 Section 4, stating that "any damage or desecration of the Holy Book is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison." Condamnée à 10 ans de prison ferme lors du précédent procès qui s’est déroulé en septembre dernier, sans que l’accusée ne puisse bénéficier de l’assistance d’un avocat, la mise en cause, qui purge une peine d’emprisonnement dans un établissement pénitentiaire de Biskra pour une affaire civile indépendante de celle-ci, a été défendue par maître Houda Talha. Sentenced to 10 years in prison in the previous trial held last September, without the accused receiving the assistance of a lawyer, the accused, serving a sentence of imprisonment in a prison of Biskra for a civil case independent of this case has been defended by Advocate Houda Talha. The latter highlighted in her arguments, the absence of corpus delicti and the inadmissibility of evidence including two codétenues "statements are full of contradictions, half-truths and uncertainties," she said.

Returning to the genesis of this case, the lawyer said that her constituent had dropped a copy of the Koran in a bucket of water, and had picked up and put to dry on a window sill, without ever having intentions to deteriorate. The Lawyer wished for this woman, the taking into account of mitigating circumstances and her acquittal. The jugement is under deliberation and the verdict will be delivered on 28 October.

by H.M.

(Translated from the Original French Article "Cour de Biskra : L’affaire de Samia S. réexaminée", El Watan, 22 octobre 2008)

SIAWI / El Watan