The founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, Raif Badawi, has been found guilty of insulting Islam through his website and in comments he made on television in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to 600 lashes and 7 years in prison. He is already in prison but can appeal the sentence.
Badawi, convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s anti anti-cyber crime was accused also of apostasy which carries the death penalty, but the judge dropped this charges, because Badawi said and proved he is a Muslim.
According to the organization Human Rights Watch, the charges against Badawi were based solely on his peaceful exercise of his right to free expression. Badawi, explained the organization, established his online platform in 2008, to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia. He has been detained in Jeddah’s Buraiman prison since his arrest on June 17, 2012.
“This incredibly harsh sentence for a peaceful blogger makes a mockery of Saudi Arabia’s claims that it supports reform and religious dialogue,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “A man who wanted to discuss religion has already been locked up for a year and now faces 600 lashes and seven years in prison.”
Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, told Human Rights Watch that Judge al-Harbi read the verdict aloud during a trial session on July 29, and that the court will send Abu al-Khair a written notification by August 6, and give him 30 days to appeal.
For more information: Saudi Arabia: 600 Lashes, 7 Years for Activist | Human Rights Watch.