Four Algerian Christians accused of converting Muslims were each handed suspended jail sentences and fined Tuesday, according to reports.
The sentence is the latest to spark ire in the West, where Christian groups accuse the Algerian government of harassing Christians. The Higher Islamic Council, a state-appointed group, claims that Protestant evangelicals are secretly trying to divide Algerians for colonization, Reuters reported.
The four Christians, who admitted to converting to Christianity but contest the charges, said they planned to appeal the ruling.
“The verdict confirms an attitude of lack of respect for freedom of conscience,” defense lawyer Khelloudja Khalfoun, told Reuters.
A law passed in 2006 forbids non-Muslims from trying to convert Muslims and confines religious worship only to buildings approved by the state, according to the BBC. Under the law, more than a dozen churches have been closed in the past six months.
There are about 10,000 Christians in Algeria, the BBC reported.