An Algerian Christian who was jailed for blasphemy last year has gone on a hunger strike after a court rejected his request for conditional release.
According to a report from World Watch Monitor, an Algerian court rejected the parole application of Slimane Bouhafs, who was convicted of blasphemy in 2016 for a posting a message on social media about the light of Jesus overcoming the "lies" of Islam alongside a picture of a jihadist killing a Christian.
He was sentenced to five years in prison and fined US$1,1900 for the social media post, but the fine was eventually dropped and the sentence was reduced to three years following an appeal. The sentence was further decreased to 16 months after he received a partial presidential pardon in July this year.
His family appealed for his parole because of his deteriorating health due to gout, but the court reportedly rejected the request without any justification.
Bouhafs went on a hunger strike to demand his transfer to a prison in his home province of Bejia, where there is a relatively large Christian community.
He was initially incarcerated at a prison in the northern city of Setif but was then transferred to Constantine prison. His family had requested his transfer to Oued Ghir Prison in Bejaia because he was reportedly assaulted by his fellow prisoners in Constantine.
His family has urged him to end his hunger strike due to their concerns about its effect on his physical and psychological health.
His health has been deteriorating in prison due to his inflammatory rheumatism, which requires a special diet. According to his daughter, Bouhafs only drinks coffee and has lost a lot of weight.
In October 2016, a crowd took part in a protest in the northern city of Tizi Ouzou in support of Bouhafs.
The protesters lobbied for Bouhafs to be allowed access to medical treatment and called for a change to the law that punishes anyone deemed to have insulted Muhammad or "denigrated the dogma or precepts of Islam."
The Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH) also organized a rally in support of Bouhafs in Béjaïa's city center in May. The group released a statement saying the Algerian government had been responsible for "repeated violations of human rights and freedoms" and demanded "the release of all detainees of political or religious opinions."
Some critics have claimed that Bouhaf's conviction was a means of silencing him because of his political activism. He is reportedly a member of a separatist group that campaigns for a certain region to have independence from the rest of Algeria, which is constitutionally declared a Sunni Islamic State.