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An Algerian judge under pressure from Islamists to uphold a Christian’s conviction for alleged proselytising rescinded his one-year prison term today but doubled his fine, a lawyer said.

Ibaouene Mohamed was sentenced in July 2012 to one year in prison and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars after he was accused by a co-worker of attempting to convert him to Christianity, a charge that Mohamed denied. The co-worker, a 27-year-old machine operator, known to be an Islamic extremist, levelled the accusation only after Ibaouene, a convert from Islam, refused to renounce Christ, Ibaouene said.

The verdict and penalty were affirmed by an appeals court on 23 January. Last Wednesday, the prison sentence was overturned by a further appeals court in Bechar in northwest Algeria, but the fine was doubled to 100,000 dinars, or about $1,240 AUD. Originally from the more Christian northern region of Algeria, Mohamed is employed in a multinational company in the western city of Tindouf.

Algeria passed a law in 2006 regulating the public expression of religions other than Islam. It permits courts to sentence Christians to a maximum five years in prison for preaching the Gospel to a Muslim. Since the law was adopted, several Christians have been sentenced to suspended prison terms and fined. Sources: World Watch Monitor, Assist News Service, Morning Star News