By BosNewsLife Africa Service
RABAT, MOROCCO (BosNewsLife)– A Moroccan Christian man jailed for evangelism was free Friday, October 4, after he was temporarily released, trial observers said.
Mohamed el Baldi, 34, from the town of Aïn Aïcha, near Fes, was given two-and-a-half years in prison, and ordered to pay 5000 dirhams ($600) for “shaking the faith of a Muslim”, at a court hearing on September 3.
El Baldi was informed of his release during a brief appearance before the Court of Appeal in the town of Fes, on September 26, said the news service of advocacy group Open Doors, which supports reportedly persecuted Christians.
The Moroccan Association for Defense of Human Rights (AMDH) said it was delighted with this “unexpected” release ahead of his appeal hearing planned for October 10. It understands that any formal release is pending the outcome on that date.
El Baldi 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, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
Some of the gatherings were focused on new Christian converts, Moroccan media reported.
El Baldi, who converted to Christianity about seven years ago, also acknowledged that he and other missionaries use encrypted codes during phone calls amid concerns about eavesdropping by intelligence services in this heavily Islamic nation, local media said.
Propagating Christianity is prohibited under Article 220 of the Moroccan Penal Code, but Christians told BosNewsLife that el-Baldi was punished more severely than usual.
Under Moroccan legislation the maximum punishment for proselytizing is three-to-six months’ imprisonment and a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams, according to experts.
El Baldi isn’t the only Christian behind bars for evangelizing. Jamaa Ait Bakri, an outspoken Christian convert, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2005 for “proselytizing” and destroying “the goods of others” after burning two defunct utility poles located in front of his private business in south Morocco.
Rights activists and Moroccan Christians claim that the severity of his sentence for a “misdemeanor” underscored Morocco’s attempt to put the 49-year-old Christian behind bars as long as possible “because he persistently spoke about his faith,” in Christ.
The sentences are part of a wider crackdown on missionaries and devoted Christians in the strict Islamic nation.
In 2010, several foreign Christians were declared “a danger” to Morocco and expelled.
They included international Christians caring for 33 Moroccan orphans at the ‘Village of Hope’ institute in in the town of Ain Leuh, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the country’s city of Fez.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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