In Algeria, editor sentenced to three years on blasphemy charges

On February 24, 2015, a court in the city of Oran sentenced Mohamed Sharki in absentia to three years and a fine of 200,000 Algerian dinars (US$2,000) on charges of blasphemy, according to news reports and the regional human rights group, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). The journalist, who appealed the sentence, was not taken to jail.

Sharki was an editor for Eldjoumhouria, a government-owned newspaper, where he oversaw a weekly page, called “Islamiat,” on which discussions of religious issues were published, according to news reports. On April 17, 2014, the page featured an article, called “The non-Arabic words in the Quran,” that said the Prophet Muhammad wrote the Quran himself, the reports said. The page said the article was written by a European, but the individual was not identified.

The newspaper’s board said the article was blasphemous, according to ANHRI. A majority of Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad was illiterate, a fact that religious experts say is evidence of him being a prophet.

Eldjoumhouria‘s website archive did not show the page in question. CPJ’s phone calls and email messages to Eldjoumhouria were not immediately returned.

In June 2014, Eldjoumhouria fired Sharki and, two months later, filed a complaint against him, accusing him of blasphemy, according to news reports. Sharki countered with his own legal case against the paper, saying he had been fired without being given the right to defend himself, news reports said.

Sharki told the local news website Echorouk Online on March 3, 2015, that he had appealed the verdict. He said he had made an error and had issued a correction two days later, according to the report. Sharki also called on Algerian Communications Minister Hamid Grine to intervene in the case, the reports said.

On March 6, 2015, dozens of journalists issued a statement expressing solidarity with Sharki, news reports said.