A convert from Islam in Algeria whose Muslim wife charged him with inciting her to change her religion won a final court battle in April - after losing her to divorce in March.
A court on April 17 upheld Rachid Ouali's acquittal following a final appeal of the Dec. 25 verdict. The woman who had filed the charges against him divorced him on March 3.
"I'm sorry we got to this point, but my wife is under the influence of her brothers - they manipulate her," Ouali told Morning Star News. "On several occasions she told me that she would like to come back, but she always says, 'I cannot...'"
It is fortunate they did not have children, he said.
"I never wanted her to leave," he said. "It is she who provoked this entire situation. On my side, I forgive her. And I am even now ready to welcome her if she decides to return. I do not think she's even aware of what she's doing. One day she will wake up, perhaps, and then she will become aware. We need your prayers."
Ouali and four other Christians had been charged with inciting a Muslim to change her religion after his wife became upset when they sang a Christian song and talked about Jesus at a lunch at his friend Ali Laarchi's house. She left for her parents' home, where she told relatives, including two brothers, about the visit.
The two brothers, both policemen, demanded that she go to the National Gendarmerie to file a complaint against her husband and Laarchi, Ouali's attorney said. She filed a complaint on July 2, 2018 accusing her husband, Laarchi, Laarchi's wife and daughter and a Christian friend of having brought her to a church service and trying to persuade her to leave Islam and become a Christian.
Ouali's wife, whose name is withheld, has told him that she filed the charge under pressure from Muslim relatives, Ouali said.
Algeria's Law 03/2006, commonly known as Law 03/06, calls for a prison term of two to five years and a fine of 500,000 to 1 million dinars (US$4,343 to US$8,687) for anyone who "incites, constrains, or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion, or using for this purpose the institutions of education, health, social, cultural, or educational institutions, or other establishment, or financial advantage; or makes, stores or distributes printed documents or films or other audiovisual medium or means intended to undermine the faith of a Muslim."
Ouali's attorney, Nadjib Sadek, told Morning Star News that it was unfortunate that the case resulted in the end of the nearly 10-year marriage.
"The wife, the source of all this conflict, asked for the divorce and was successful in basing it on the 'foundations of Islam,'" Sadek said. "She said to the judge, 'I am not allowed to live under the same roof as a disbeliever who has renounced Islam to become a Christian; this is a grave sin.'"
Sadek did not learn of the verdict upholding the acquittal of the five Christians until Thursday (April 25), he said, as attorneys, bailiffs and judges had been on strike.
"Thus on Thursday, April 25, all five, Ali Laarchi with his wife and daughter, Rachid Ouali and Mohamed Aissaoui, have received the good news of upholding of their acquittal," he said. "They are free."
Another Acquittal Upheld
The ruling comes two months after the acquittal was upheld of another convert from Islam who lost his wife, as well as his two young daughters, due to his faith in Christ.
Ahmed Beghal (name changed for security reasons) was acquitted of the charge of undermining Islam on Dec. 30 after his wife, accompanied by her parents, filed a complaint with gendarmerie on 2017. Under pressure from her family, she divorced him after falsely accusing him of attacking Islam and destroying a box inscribed with a verse from the Koran on it.
A judge upheld the acquittal in a Feb. 27 ruling.
His in-laws have kept him from visiting his daughters since they learned of his conversion and urged his wife to leave him, according to Beghal.
Islam is the state religion in Algeria, where 99 percent of the population of 40 million are Muslim. Since 2000, thousands of Algerian Muslims have put their faith in Christ. Algerian officials estimate the number of Christians at 50,000, but others say it could be twice that number.
Algeria ranked 22nd on Christian support organization Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.