Death threats for Algerian academic after ‘offending Islam’

A renowned Algerian scholar on Islam said Monday he has received death threats after he was handed a three year prison sentence for “offending Islam”, a verdict he rejects.

“I received messages threatening me and telling me: ‘We are waiting for your arrival in prison to settle your account’,” Said Djabelkhir said.

Djabelkhir, 53, said he is regularly sent “direct death threats” on private messages via Facebook, and “no longer feels safe”.

Sentenced last week after seven lawyers and a fellow academic made complaints against him, Djabelkhir has pledged to appeal the ruling and keep fighting for “freedom” of thought.

The scholar, author of two well-known works, was criticised for writing that the sacrifice of sheep predates Islam and for criticising practises including the marriage of pre-pubescent girls in some Muslim societies.

His lawyer Moumen Chadi said that while many of the threats made were anonymous, four were “identifiable”.

The messages, sometimes accompanied by his photograph and his address, call for him to killed including by beheading or by stoning, according to Chadi, adding that a complaint would be filed with the court in Algiers.

Algerian law stipulates a three to five year prison term and or a fine for “anyone who offends the Prophet or denigrates the dogmatic precepts of Islam, whether it be by writings, drawings, a statement or another means”.