VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Morocco

‘Proselytism’ Conviction of Convert from Islam in Morocco Overturned

morocco christians

(Morning Star News) – An appeals court judge in Morocco today overturned a conviction against a Christian convert from Islam who had been sentenced to 30 months in prison for alleged proselytizing.

The judge in the Court of Appeal in Fez dismissed the case against Mohamed El Baladi, 31, because of lack of evidence, sources close to him said.

“The case has ended,” said one source close to El Baladi who requested anonymity. “The file will be closed on the 13th of February after a routine administrative process is finished.”

On Aug. 28, in the remote town of Ain Aicha, Taounate Province, 50 miles from Fez, security officials arrested El Baladi for alleged proselytizing of two Muslims after someone complained to police about a conversation he allegedly had with them about his faith. During the arrest, police insulted El Baladi for leaving Islam and tried to force him to reveal names of other converts to Christianity.

Police eventually raided his home where they seized several Christian CDs, books and magazines, along with the 5,000 dirhams, sources said.

On Sept. 3, no more than a week after his arrest, a court in Taounate found El Baladi guilty of attempting to incite at least one young Muslim to leave Islam and sentenced him to 30 months in prison, along with fining him 1,500 Moroccan dirhams (US$182). (See Morning Star News, Sept. 13, 2013.)

Human rights advocates said his hearing was irregular at best, with authorities finding El Baladi guilty without any legal representation and handing down the fine exceeding the maximum allowed by law. The penalty for violating Article 220 of Morocco’s penal code regarding “proselytism” is six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to 500 dirhams (US$60).

The penal code describes proselytizing as any attempt to stop someone from exercising their religious beliefs or from attending religious services. It is also illegal for anyone to employ “incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion.”

Authorities on Sept. 26, 2013, made the unusual decision to release him from prison until his appeal hearing. There were two scheduled court hearings for the appeal, one on Oct. 10, which was postponed, and one scheduled for Dec. 26, when the judge was absent; a previous report from Morocco published by Morning Star News that the court heard arguments on that date was later found to be inaccurate, although long-denied defense arguments were filed and the hearing was rescheduled for today (Feb. 6).

Having a conversation about one’s faith is not generally considered proselytizing in Morocco, but sources confirmed reports that El Baladi was set up by an uncle with whom he had a previous dispute. The uncle hired two teenage boys to feign interest in Christianity, and police were on hand to arrest him for proselytizing minors when he met with them a second time (see Morning Star News, Oct. 11, 2013).

Strict interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) condemns apostates from Islam to death, though that is not the case in Morocco. Moreover, converts from Islam in Morocco say the government tends to prosecute more noticeable evangelists. A quiet Christian convert is unlikely to run into problems other than from family, but “active” Christians who attempt to tell others about their faith will likely run into problems with government agencies, especially if they live in a rural area or a small city.

Police monitoring of converts, including phone conversations, is common, one convert from Islam said.

The West has generally applauded Morocco’s new constitution of 2011, which provides for a fair trial and presumption of innocence until proven guilty for those accused of breaking the law. But a fatwa issued in 2012 by the governmental High Council of Ulemas, the highest religious authority in Morocco that called for the execution of converts, has caused concern among human rights and religious freedom advocates.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is seen as a moderate, but Islam is the official religion of the state, and the king’s titles include, “The Defender of the Faithful.” Christians are also suspicious as his government shares power in a coalition that includes the Justice and Development Party, which is considered to have links with the Muslim Brotherhood; the group calls for a society governed by Islam.

On Dec. 28, 2005, Christian convert Jamaa Ait Bakrim was sentenced to 15 years in prison for proselytism and for destroying the goods of others by burning two abandoned telephone poles touching his property.

In March 2010, the government expelled at least 33 Christian foreign residents from the country. Among them were 10 adult Christians, along with their children, who were running The Village of Hope, a foster daycare center for orphans. The foster children were turned over to the care of people they did not know.

In addition to the expulsions, roughly 81 people were declared “persona non grata” for alleged proselytizing.

There are about 8,000 Moroccan Christians out of a population of almost 35 million people, according to the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report of the U.S. Department of State.

Verdict for Moroccan Convert from Islam Sentenced for ‘Proselytism’ Expected Feb. 6

Fez, Morocco. (Wikipedia, Zimaal)

Fez, Morocco. (Wikipedia, Zimaal)

 A Moroccan appeals court on Thursday (Dec. 26) heard arguments for a Christian convert from Islam hastily sentenced to prison for alleged “proselytizing,” sources said.

The Court of Appeal in Fez is expected to deliver a ruling on Feb. 6.

Mohamed El Baladi was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Sept. 3, just a week after his arrest on Aug. 28, in a court in the northern town of Taounate, 50 miles from Fez. Unlike that occasion, when the court convicted him before police allowed him to obtain legal representation, several defense lawyers were on hand yesterday at the hearing.

Authorities on Sept. 26 released him from prison after international outcry over his conviction. El Baladi, 31, was charged with inducing young Muslims to convert, punishable by six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to 500 dirhams (US$60), according to Article 220 of Morocco’s penal code. El Baladi’s fine of 1,500 dirhams exceeded the maximum, and police also took 5,000 dirhams from his home during the raid, a source said.

Police in the remote town of Ain Aicha, Taounate Province, arrested him for alleged proselytizing, vilified him for leaving Islam and pressured him to reveal names of other converts to Christianity, sources said (see Morning Star News, Sept. 13). Strict sharia (Islamic law) condemns apostates from Islam to death.

Mohamed Oulad Ayad of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights reportedly said he hopes the sentence will be reduced to a one-month suspended sentence and fine of no more than 500 dirhams.

Human rights advocates say El Baladi’s conviction and sentencing violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Algeria is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which implements provisions of the UDHR.

Along with the 5,000 dirhams police stole, gendarmerie also seized several Christian CDs, books and magazines, sources said.

The West has generally applauded Morocco’s new constitution of 2011, which provides for a fair trial and presumption of innocence until proven guilty for those accused of breaking the law.

While police monitoring and harassment of Christians is common in Morocco, El Baladi’s case comes as Christians have become increasingly unsettled by persecution and violations of religious freedom. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is seen as a moderate, but Islam is the official religion of the state, and the king’s titles include, “The Defender of the Faithful.” Christians are also suspicious as his government shares power in a coalition that includes the Justice and Development Party, considered to have links with the Muslim Brotherhood; the party calls for a society governed by Islam.

On Dec. 28, 2005, Christian convert Jamaa Ait Bakrim was sentenced to 15 years in prison for proselytism and for destroying the goods of others by burning two abandoned telephone poles touching his property. In March 2010, the government expelled at least 33 Christian foreign residents from the country. Among them were 10 adult Christians, along with their children, who were running The Village of Hope, a foster daycare center for orphans. The foster children were turned over to the care of people they did not know.

In addition to the expulsions, roughly 81 people were declared “persona non grata” for alleged proselytizing.

There are about 8,000 Moroccan Christians out of a population of almost 35 million people, according to the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report of the U.S. Department of State.

Morning Star News

Attacks on Christians Escalate in Egypt, Nigeria

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Moroccan Christian Jailed For Evangelizing

Morocco

A Moroccan Christian man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years and fined for evangelizing.

Mohamed el Baldi, 34, from the town of Ain Aicha, near Fes, was ordered to pay 5000 dirhams ($600) for “shaking the faith of a Muslim”, at a court hearing on September 3.

He was arrested after his house was raided on August 28 and items linked to his faith such as his Bible were confiscated.

Propagating Christianity is prohibited under Article 220 of the Moroccan Penal Code. The law states that it is unlawful to stop one or more persons from practicing their religion by force, violence or threats.

By law, the maximum punishment for this offence is three-to-six months’ imprisonment and a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams. However, el Baldi has been punished much more strictly.

El Baldi, who is understood to have converted to Christianity around seven years ago, admitted friendship with two American Christians, who provided him with Christian materials, and confirmed that he attended Christian meetings in the cities of Meknes and Rabat.

During the court hearing, his mother was said to have been hysterical and to have asked Allah to exact revenge on whoever “tampered” with the mind of her son.

Morocco is ranked 39th in the Open Doors International’s World Watch List, which reports on countries where it is difficult to practice Christianity.

In 2010, a number of foreign Christians were declared as “a danger” to the country and expelled.

Of the 33 million population of Morocco, over 99 per cent is Muslim. The rest is comprised predominantly of Christians and Jews.

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