ALGERIA FINDS SECT LEADER GUILTY

Swazi Observer - - NEWS -

ALGIERS - An Al­ge­rian court found the head of the tiny Ah­madi com­mu­nity guilty of "of­fend­ing Is­lam" and handed him a six-month sus­pended sen­tence on Wed­nes­day, his lawyer said.

"Mo­hamed Fali was handed a six-month sus­pended sen­tence. He was found guilty of unau­tho­rised fundrais­ing and of­fend­ing the Prophet and Is­lam," Salah Dabouz said.

While Ah­madis con­sider them­selves to be Mus­lims, Is­lamic ex­trem­ists have ac­cused them of heresy and since last year Al­ge­rian au­thor­i­ties have cracked down on the group.

The trial in the western coastal town of Mosta­ganem came af­ter Fali ob­jected to a sus­pended sen­tence of three months on the same charges in Fe­bru­ary at a trial he did not at­tend.

Al­ge­rian law al­lows de­fen­dants to at­tend a re­trial if they were not present for the first trial. Fali was ar­rested at his home in Ain Se­fra, 650 kilo­me­tres south­west of Algiers, on 28 Au­gust.

"My client will be re­leased, but I'm shocked he was sen­tenced in a case where there are no facts," his lawyer said. Fali faces cases in sev­eral courts. At least 286 of Algeria's roughly 2 000 Ah­madis have been ar­rested and tried since the start of a gov­ern­ment crack­down last year. All but three were handed jail terms, rang­ing from a three-month sus­pended sen­tence to four years.

Is­lam is the state re­li­gion in Algeria, where Sunni Mus­lims make up the ma­jor­ity.

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