Libyan Ex-Muslim Christian Sentenced to Death for Apostasy

A young Ex-Muslim man who converted to Christianity was sentenced to death on September 4 under an "anti-apostasy" law by the Misrata Court of Appeal in Libya. The law condemning the man of apostasy is controversial in the country.

According to the Middle East Concern (MEC), the man who converted to Christianity four years ago, has been detained by armed militias multiple times in the last few years. During the proceedings, the Libyan convert was not permitted to have a lawyer for his legal representation in court. The young believer was pressured to abandon his faith in Christianity, which he refused. He then was forced to pay the expenses for publishing the verdict in a local newspaper, on a local radio station, and to display it outside his home and the court.

The accused has been identified as Dhiaa al-Din Ahmed Miftah Balao, an information technology graduate who was previously a faithful Muslim man and was said to have memorized the entire Quran. It is unknown why he decided to convert to Christianity and how the authorities learned about this occurrence.

Apostasy means the abandonment or renunciation of religion or, in Islam, political belief. Depending on the situation, this act is something the Muslim community either encouraged or criticized. For example, if an ex-Christian joins the Muslim community, then it is welcomed. Still, if the exact opposite of this scenario occurs, then it is often considered a horrendous crime that may result in the death penalty in sharia countries.

Apostasy is not a grave crime in Libya's original penal code. However, the Misrata Court of Appeal based its verdict on a law sanctioned by the General National Congress (GNC), a legislative authority temporarily elected from 2012 to 2014. Following the Sharia law, the GNC added multiple amendments to the penal code. One of the amendments was the death penalty for anyone guilty of apostasy who refuses to recant.

During the county’s civil war, the GNC agreed to dissolve itself per an agreement with the UN. In 2020, the incoming Parliament voided any law passed by the outgoing congress. This move is considered invalid by the Libyan Supreme Court, which insists the death penalty must stand.

According to academic and Islamic writer Abdelsabour Shahin at Cairo University, if apostasy is secret, it is not punished, but “if someone goes public with his apostasy, it amounts to fitna (sedition or treason). He is thus like someone fighting Islam and should therefore be killed.”

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