Saudi Arabia sentenced a blogger “Raif Badawi” to 600 lashes and 7 years in prison for insulting Islam. (Beirut) – A Jeddah court on July 29, 2013, convicted a liberal activist of violating Saudi Arabia’s anti-cybercrime law and sentenced him to 600 lashes and seven years in prison. The Criminal Court found Raif Badawi, the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, guilty of insulting Islam through his website and in comments he made on television, and added three months to his term for “parental disobedience.”
The charges against Badawi were based solely on his peaceful exercise of his right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Badawi 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. Criminal Court Judge Faris al-Harbi dropped a charge of apostasy, which carries the death penalty, after Badawi assured the court on July 24 that he is a Muslim.
“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.