Algerian authorities have shut down a church in the north-western town of Ain Turk for allegedly printing Bibles and other Christian materials.
A church affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (known as EPA, its French acronym) was closed on Nov. 9 after the authorities in Oran claimed that it is being used to "illegally print Gospels and publications intended for evangelism."
The notice also claimed that the church did not have state approval, but EPA President Rev. Mahmoud Haddad has denied any wrongdoing, and insisted that the justifications for shutting down the church were "unfounded."
"Firstly, this community is indeed affiliated to the Protestant Church of Algeria, which has been officially recognised by the government since 1974 and is accredited with both the Ministry of the Interior and the local government," he said, according to World Watch Monitor.
"Also there is no printing activity of Gospels or Christian publications inside these premises," he added.
Haddad also disputed several "anomalies and falsehoods" in the notification, such as the claim that the church of Aïn Turk belonged to a man named "Rachid," who serves there as a pastor. "This is not the case," he said, adding that the accusations were "unjust and false."
A board member of the church, identified only as Youssef, said: "I am very saddened by this injustice and persecution we are facing in Algeria. The notification of the Prefect is based on false motives."
World Watch Monitor noted that Algeria recently passed a new Constitution that establishes the freedom of religious worship.
But despite the guarantees provided by the Constitution, several churches have been ordered to cease all religious activities on the grounds that they were in violation of a 2006 law which regulates non-Muslim worship.
Haddad had previously stated that the 2006 law is being used as a tool of persecution by the authorities. Several Christians have been fined and sentenced to suspended prison terms since the law was adopted.
In 2008, a Christian teacher named Habiba Kouder drew widespread media attention after he was charged under the 2006 law for illegal possession of Bibles.
Haddad contended that "the situation of Christians in Algeria will not improve until the outright law, which is no longer justified, is repealed."
Open Doors USA has ranked Algeria as the 36th worst nation in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians.
According to the charity, the law prohibits public assembly for purposes of practicing faith other than Islam, but Catholic churches and one Protestant church are allowed to conduct services without government interference.
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