02/10/2014, 00.00
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Christian convert from Islam exonerated from charges of proselytising

Appeal Court rules there is no evidence against the defendant whose legal troubles were caused by a relative opposed to his conversion to Christianity. In Morocco, converts can live in peace, but evangelisation (not just proselytising) is tightly monitored. Dozens of Evangelical Christians have been expelled over the years.

Rabat (AsiaNews/Morning Star) - An Appeal Court in Fez overturned a conviction against a Christian convert from Islam because of lack of evidence. He had been sentenced to 30 months in prison for alleged proselytising. The ruling was issued last Thursday and the file should be closed next Thursday.

Mohamed El Baladi, 31, was arrested on 28 August in the town of Ain ​​Aicha (Taounate province), about 80 km from Fez, on charges of proselytising after he was accused of trying to push two young Muslims to convert.

Police raided his home, where they seized several Christian CDs, books and magazines. During the raid, they insulted El Baladi for leaving Islam and tried to force him to reveal names of other converts to Christianity.

Later, it was revealed that the accusation of proselytising had come from El Baladi's uncle, who was opposed to his conversion to Christianity.

On 3 September, a court in Taounate sentenced El Baladi to 30 months in prison and a fine of 1,500 Moroccan dirhams (about US$ 182).

Human rights groups slammed the ruling because the accused was denied legal counsel and received a fine that exceeded the maximum allowed by law. The penalty for violating Morocco's penal code is six months to three years in prison and fines of up to 500 dirhams.

El Baladi was eventually able to show that his talk with two young Muslims was not designed to convert them, but to explain his reasons for conversion.

Under Morocco's penal code, it is illegal for anyone to employ "incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion;" however, just talking about one's faith is not generally considered proselytising.

Several Muslim countries impose the death penalty for apostasy and condemn proselytising. However, this is not the case of Morocco.

According to the Morning Star News, a US-based evangelical news service, "a quiet Christian convert is unlikely to run into problems other than from family".

However, if more zealous converts try to tell others about their faith they might be monitored by police, especially in rural areas or small cities.

Such a liberal interpretation of Islamic law is rather rare in the Islamic world, but it tends to cause negative reactions among fundamentalists.

In 2012, Morocco's Ulema (Islamic scholars) High Council issued a fatwa calling for the execution of converts from Islam.

For now, the fatwa has not been followed up. But in recent years, the government has expelled dozens of Evangelical Christians from the country after accusing them of proselytising.

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