ALGERIA FINDS SECT LEADER GUILTY
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.