By BosNewsLife Africa Service
RABAT, MOROCCO (BosNewsLife)– An appeals court in Morocco has overturned a conviction against a Christian man who was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for evangelism, trial observers said Thursday, February 6.
The judge of the Court of Appeal in the town of Fez dismissed the case against Mohamed El Baladi, who is in his 30s, due to a lack of evidence, Christians said.
“The case has ended. The file will be closed on the 13th of February after a routine
administrative process is finished,” Christian news agency Morning Star News quoted sources as saying, he spoke on condition of anonymity amid security concerns.
El Baldi from the town of Aïn Aïcha, near Fez 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.
He was later released on September 26 pending an appeals hearing, Christian investigators told BosNewsLife.
LONG PRISON TERM
Yet another evangelist, 50-year-old Jamaa Ait Bakrim, remains behind bars after he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2005 for “proselytizing” and destroying “the goods of others”.
Christians say the outspoken convert was the victim of trumped up charges, as they included burning two defunct utility poles located in front of his own business in south Morocco.
Open Doors, a Christian advocacy group, quoted activists and Moroccan Christians as saying that the severity of his sentence for a “misdemeanor” underscores Morocco’s attempt him behind bars as long as possible “because he persistently spoke about his faith.”
The perceived selective justice towards Christians comes at a time when authorities are considering cracking down on public expressions of Christianity in the heavily Islamic nation.
Last year the country’s highest Islamic institute issued a fatwa demanding the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their religion.
CONDEMNED TO DEATH
The Supreme Ulema Council of Morocco (CSO), a body of Islamic scholars headed by King Mohammed VI, said that Muslims who reject their faith “should be condemned to death.”
CSO is the only institution entitled to issue ‘fatwas’, or religious decrees, in Morocco.
Additionally foreign Christian missionaries and aid workers are under pressure. Morocco expelled as many as 100 foreign Christians since 2010, because they allegedly tried to convert Muslims, according to previous BosNewsLife estimates.
Among those expelled were Christians who cared for 33 Moroccan orphans at the Christian orphanage Village of Hope (VoH) in the town of Ain Leuh, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Fez.
Morocco’s government has defended the decision saying the Christians had violated the Islamic country’s religious traditions and legislation banning proselytizing.
(With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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