Hamid Soudad

Name: Hamid Soudad

Country/Area of Origin: Algeria

Background: Soudad is an Algerian Christian

Reason for Arrest:

In January 2021, Algerian authorities arrested Hamid Soudad for sharing a Facebook post in 2018 depicting a cartoon of Muhammad. Officers immediately interrogated Soudad and then permitted him to briefly return home, however, he was re-summoned to the local prison where he slept overnight. The following day, having neither provided access to a lawyer nor a trial, a court in Arzew charged Soudad with “insulting the Prophet of Islam” and imposed upon him the maximum sentence of five years in prison under Penal Code article 144-2.

On 22 March 2021, Oran City Court denied Soudad’s appeal and upheld his original sentencing. Soudad’s attorney, Farid Khemisti, has expressed his belief authorities charged his client with the maximum sentence because he is a Christian, as the penalty deviates from previous practice in which authorities apply milder sentences for sharing alleged blasphemous posts than sentences for authoring them. Khemisti’s speculation that Soudad was harshly sentenced due to his Christian faith is further supported by the fact that the charges were raised a whole two years after he originally shared the Facebook post.

Latest Updates:

  • 20 July 2023 Hamid Soudad was released from prison following  a commuted sentence granted by the President for Algerian Independence Day. 
  • “Opinion No.4/2023 concerning the detention of Hamid Soudad (Algeria)” UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  • 26 November 2021: UN officials [Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Vice Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues] sent a letter to the Algerian Government regarding Soudad’s case:
    • “Without wishing at this stage to presume the accuracy of these [blasphemy] allegations, we express, if they prove to be accurate, serious concerns about the conviction of Mr. Hamid Soudad, which seems directly linked to the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and peaceful expression as well as his right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief, guaranteed by Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),”
    • “The fact that a religion is recognized as a state, official or traditional religion, or that its followers represent the majority of the population, shall in no way affect the enjoyment of any of the rights guaranteed by the ICCPR for persons belonging to a religious or belief minority.”
    • “Pending a response from you as soon as possible, we request your Excellency’s Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of Mr. Soudad; to initiate an investigation into the violations that may have been perpetrated against him; and bring those responsible to justice. We also request your Government to adopt, if necessary, all the necessary measures to prevent the repetition of the facts mentioned.”
  • 22 August 2021: Jubilee Campaign raised Soudad’s case in our submission to the UN Human Rights Council 48th Session Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
  • 13 August 2021: Jubilee Campaign submitted a sign-on letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in which we appeal to the rapporteur to urge Algerian authorities to drop all charges against Soudad and release him immediately and unconditionally:
    • “The sentence carried against Mr Soudad breaches international law on several accounts: Firstly, all blasphemy laws are incompatible with international law as previously made clear by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and as highlighted in your report. Secondly, even if the blasphemy law was considered legitimate, Mr. Soudad’s case does not meet the law’s requirement of directness between the speech and the alleged harm. The Facebook post the authorities are sentencing Mr. Soudad for is from 2018, but the charge was not laid against Mr. Soudad until December 2020, which makes it clear that the sentencing s based not on any alleged harm caused by his post [….] In addition, the penalty is disproportionate to the perceived harm incurred, with the five-year prison sentence for a social media post being the same minimum sentence required in Algeria for crimes such as selling, distributing, or storing bladed weapons for illicit purposes.”
  • 12 July 2021: A group of United States Senators – Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) submitted a joint letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in which they “reiterate our deep concern with the treatment of religious minority groups in Algeria” and urge the State Department to “continue to promote a foreign policy that advances religious freedom across the globe and take serious action against countries engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom”.
  • 23 June 2021: USCIRF released a public statement on the charges against Hamid Soudad as well as the sentencing of another Algerian prisoner of conscience, Pastor Rachid Seighir:
    • “Recent decisions by Algerian courts to sentence Christians accused of blasphemy and proselytizing to multi-year prison sentences and to seal protestant churches that have been forcibly closed demonstrates the country is headed in the wrong direction.” – USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza
    • “These court decisions are blatant attempts to deny Algerian Christians their right to freedom of religion and belief. We encourage U.S. government officials to attend the appeals for these rulings to demonstrate our firm commitment to religious freedom of Christians and all religious minorities in Algeria.” – USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie