Algerian Christian convert arrested and deported from Tunisia

Publication Date: 31/8/2021

Source: Independent Catholic News

Algerian Christian convert Sulieman Buhafss was arrested by secret police in Tunisia on 25 August. He was subsequently repatriated and handed over to the Algerian authorities.

Mr Buhafss, 53, is expected to be tried for his membership in the Movement for Self-Determination for the Kabylie (Le MAK), a political organisation that defends the rights of the Berber people, which was designated as a terrorist organisation by the Algerian authorities in May 2021.

Mr Buhafss was arrested in Algeria on 31 July 2016 and accused of converting to Christianity, proselytising, and defaming Islam. He was initially sentenced to five years in prison, but this was later reduced to three years. In July 2020 he received a presidential pardon, a customary tradition in which some prisoners are pardoned on Independence Day, and he was released after spending 20 months in prison. Upon his release, Mr Buhafss moved to Tunisia, where he applied for asylum and registered with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Mr Buhafss is originally from the governorate of Setif. He converted to Christianity over 20 years ago and founded the St Augustin Commission for Defending Algerian Christians. Prior to his arrest in 2016, Mr Buhafss regularly discussed issues relating to Christianity and Islam on social media.

Tunisia is a signatory to the 1951 the UN Refugee Convention, has ratified the African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, and adopted a new Constitution in 2014 that guarantees political asylum.

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW is alarmed at the arrest and subsequent refoulement of Sulieman Buhafss in violation of Tunisia's international, regional and constitutional obligations. In returning Mr Buhafss to Algeria, the Tunisian authorities have handed him over to a government which is already responsible for comprehensive violations of his right to freedom of religion or belief. We call on the Algerian authorities to ensure that Mr Buhafss is released immediately and without condition, and that he does not face further spurious charges relating to his religious belief."


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