Two Algerian Christians 'did not break Ramadan rules'

Muslim men attend a mass prayer session during Ramadan in Algiers in August 2010
Image caption Algeria is a mainly Muslim country

Two Christians who were on trial in Algeria for breaking Ramadan fasting rules have been cleared of wrongdoing.

Human rights groups said the trial was a violation of the right to religious freedom under the constitution.

Hocine Hocini and Salem Fellak were arrested in August during the month of Ramadan, after they were seen eating lunch on the building site where they worked in Kabylie, northern Algeria.

The men's lawyer called the verdict a "victory for justice".

The two men admitted they had been eating, but said they had done it discreetly, and felt they had done nothing wrong.

The judge at the court in Ain El Hamman threw the case out because "no article [of law] provided for a legal pursuit" against the men, thereby rejecting the prosecutors' request for three-year prison sentences.

Two similar cases are scheduled in the coming weeks.

Algeria is a mostly Muslim country; the ministry of religious affairs estimates there are only about 11,000 Christians among a population of 36 million.

Most of Algeria's Christians are Protestants.

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