Algeria: 6 people sentenced to 4 years in prison for breaking Ramadan fast.
The court at Biskra in southern Algeria sentenced the six on September 29, said Ali Yahia. The men were arrested by police while eating in public during fasting hours.
Ali Yahia said the convictions were not supported by the Algerian constitution, which he said "guarantees freedom of conscience."
In Gulf countries such as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia it is illegal to drink, eat or smoke in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan, hefty fines are usually handed out for violators.
During Ramadan, observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex between dawn and sundown each day, after which they break their fast and eat a meal known as iftar.
The end of Ramadan is marked by the Eid al-Fitr festival which was celebrated in Algeria on October 1.
7 October 2008
Demand immediate release and revision of trial!
Six people, arrested mid- September, were sentenced to 4 years in prison and a 1000 Euros fine by the Tribunal of Biskra ( southern Algeria) on September 29, 2008. They were accused of having had food before the end of Ramzan fast. (http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2008/10/07/01003-20081007ARTFIG00743-algerie-ans-ferme-pour-ne-pas-avoir-respecte-le-ramadan-.php)
While the Algerian Constitution garantees freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, feedom of opinion, judges used article 142 bis 2 of the Penal Code to justify the sentence; this article sets punishment for 'offending the Prophet and denigrating the dogma of Islam by writing, drawing, oral statement and any other means'.
Clearly the fundamentalists' offensive bears fruits: the government negociates with them, the laws of the Republic are gradually replaced by the ' law of God' - fundamentalist version -, and if judges still take the pain to subvert the legal code to justify their decision, one can fear that the time has come when this precaution will not even be necessary any more.
In order to avoid further talibanisation of Algeria and to prevent further compromission of government and justice, we call on all of you to take any action (letter writing, but also, delegations to the Algerian Embassies, demonstrations, press articles, legal aid to those sentenced in Biskra, etc...) vis-a-vis Algerian authorities to demand the immediate release of the condemned people now, on the ground that this judgement conrtradicts the rights granted by the Constitution. We should also demand the revision of the trial.
-- SIAWI - Secularism Is A Women's Issue http://www.siawi.org/article561.html
Sample letter to be adressed to Embassies:
Ambassador Permanent Representative
H.E. Mr. Mourad Benmehidi
The Permanent Mission of Algeria to the United Nations
326 E 48th St
New York, NY 10017-1747
The Court of Biskra on 29 September 2008 sentenced to four years' imprisonment, six people for eating during Ramadan. This ruling violates the Constitution of the Republic of Algeria, which guarantees freedom of religion, conscience and opinion.
We therefore urge the immediate release of convicts and the subsequent revision of their trial.
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