‘Saudi Arabian liberals’ website founder detained since one year

Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi

Amnesty International urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally a website founder who is still detained and on trial one year after his arrest for expressing his views online.

After founding “Saudi Arabian Liberals” – an online forum for political and social debate – Raif Badawi, 29, was charged last June with “setting up a website that undermines public security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures. The prosecution had on the basis of this called for him to be tried for “apostasy”, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
He has been detained for the past year in a prison in Briman, in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah, after being arrested on 17 June 2012.

“One year on, Raif Badawi remains behind bars as his trial continues for the ‘crime’ of encouraging social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“His detention shows the authorities’ contempt for online expression, and serves as a warning to the third of the Saudi Arabian population who are resorting to social media to express themselves, particularly if they are thinking of airing dissenting views.”

The charges against Raif Badawi relate to a number of articles he has written, including one about Valentine’s Day for which he is accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

One of his articles concluded:
“Congratulations to us for the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue for teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure that all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise.”

The charges against the website founder also mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website, including one that insinuates that Al-Imam Mohamed ibn Saud University had become “a den for terrorists”.

“Amnesty International considers Raif Badawi to be a prisoner of conscience and therefore calls for him to be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther.

His trial began in June 2012 in the District Court in Jeddah, and was marred by irregularities there. According to his lawyer, the original trial judge was replaced by a judge who had advocated that Raif Badawi be punished for “apostasy”. His lawyer contested the judge’s impartiality in the case.

On 17 December, the District Court referred the case to the General Court in Jeddah, which five days later made Raif Badawi sign documents to enable his trial for “apostasy” to proceed.
Conflicting views over which court had jurisdiction over the case, relating in part to the judge at the District Court insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” – something only the General Court can do – resulted in the case being shuffled between several courts. Most recently on 8 June the District Court sent the case back to the appeal court once again insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” despite the appeal court not considering that he be tried on that charge.

“Raif Badawi’s trial has been an attempt to intimidate him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives,” said Philip Luther.
Over the past two years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested several others for expressing online views deemed to be contrary to Islam.
Hamza Kashgari remains detained without charge or trial since he was extradited from Malaysia in February 2012, where he had fled after he wrote about the Prophet Muhammed on the social network Twitter.
The prominent writer and academic Turki al-Hamad was reportedly released without charge on 5 June after he was detained in December 2012 for tweets also deemed contrary to Islam.

Bloggers, critics and activists have been increasingly singled out for their online activism in the Gulf kingdom.

On 9 March 2013, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) was required to shut down its social media accounts and disband. Two of ACPRA’s founders, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr Abdullah al-Hamid, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years’ imprisonment respectively. They submitted appeals against their sentences on 28 May.

From: Amnesty International

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14 Responses

  1. Raif Badawi, Turki Al-Hamad, Hamza Kashgari and thousands of other similar cases will be left to rot in tortuous/horrific saudi jails for a long long time. Saudi Arabia is the West’s North Korea, and almost everything it does undermines the international peace and stability of Muslims vis-à-vis each other and non-muslims.

    It’s sad that “West” is somewhat mum when it comes to human rights abuses in saudi arabia, because of “oil politics” i.e. its dependence on saudi oil. The only light I see at the end of the dark tunnel is that US is predicted to have more oil production than the saudis, by 2020. Hopefully, we will stop buying saudi oil by then – only then can we make a serious effort to push it to reform.

  2. Yes, it’s all about oil. The US and other countries overlook all kinds of things when it comes to oil.

  3. I don’t understand the King of Saudi Arabia and his family members who are nothing more than crooks and criminals. They go to Morocco, drink, gamble, and pay $50,000 for prostitutes, yet they pose all of these restrictions on their own people. Why aren’t the people up against the King? Why don’t they protest the way they have to live a life of utter despair. The oppression of the whole population of Saudi people is utterly disgusting. Take the Saud family out of the picture and you would have a much better country. They have ruled long enough and have worked with crooked countries for a very long time. We never invade Saudi Arabia for their inhumane treatment of their people.

  4. The country would not be better because the Salafis would really take over more than they already have. The people don’t protest because for the most part they are well looked after financially compared to many countries. This might change now that the workers from India and elsewhere are being sent home so that the Saudis can have their jobs. It’s going to be tough times getting Saudis working at building highrises and doing all the jobs the foreign workers do. They will actually have to get their hands dirty and maybe even get hurt.

  5. “Going beyond the realm of obedience” was one of the two charges against Raif Badawi, related to June 17th. Were he to be tried for this, then the court itself would be going beyond the realm of obedience.

    This is because the Koran states that all such cases are judged by God in the afterlife. When a Saudi judge gives himself the authority of God he certainty is not serving God but someone else.

    It is a very unfortunate/fortunate fact (depending on pov) that Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer. If it were not, it would be shunned instead of courted by the West.

    Also, like most governments it uses its wealth to promote its views abroad. But in its case, this means promoting hard line Wahabism in formerly moderate Muslim countries, e.g. Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Yemen, Zanzibar, etc.

    I have many colleagues/friends from those countries that also tell me about how their countries used to be moderate muslim countries until Saudi Arabia started to export it’s Wahabism, starting in the 80s. Now all those countries are full of terrorists.

  6. Umm al-Quwain – you are so right. Sudan is one of those countries being beat down by Wahabism. It is growing worse day by day. The people are feeling so sad. I visit there often.

  7. I do not understand the insecurity that those who rule in SA hstion it.ave about Islam. I believe that if you have faith in what is being taught it shouled stand up to those who que

  8. Crantode,

    Precisely. After we debate and I change his mind on something about Islam or his culture, sometimes my husband says, “You’re trying to make an atheist out of me.” I always respond that if Islam is the truth, it has nothing to fear. It should be that simple, shouldn’t it?

    Unfortunately, I would not be surprised if many of those in these high positions care little about Islam for the religious value. It is an excellent governing tool, able to be distorted and used to control the hearts and minds of the people. This is why such websites as the one in the article are problematic to the governing parties.

  9. Another thing for Muslims out there … if the religion is so wonderful why must Muslims be threatened with all kinds of horrors if they think about embracing a different religion? If a Muslim wants to leave what is the harm?

  10. Here is a very sensible and commonsensical quote from Abraham Lincoln, POTUS #16. During the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, a reporter asked Abe about his religious affiliation. He simply said:

    When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. Our world will be a much more peaceful place if all of us STOP believing in utter NONSENSE such as …

    My Country Right Or Wrong!
    My Religion Right Or Wrong!
    My Holy Scripture Right Or Wrong!
    My Apostle Right Or Wrong!

  11. Wendy, the religion knows it is weak, that can be the only explanation for these kind of draconian measures, including murder, for those who think differently.

    Moe Bandy, nice quote. We know what is good or bad, everybody knows that. Religion doesn’t enforce, but corrupts that knowledge. Nobody would kill somebody merely for changing his/her mind about some ancient myths and rules, if they weren’t forced and indoctrinated into murder by religion.

    Stephen Weinberg:
    ”Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”

  12. The issue of political prisoners is rarely talked about in the Western media. However, among the 10.000 political prisoners who has the courage of their convictions, only handful detained because of insulting religion. And those handful receive relatively much of the attention from the Anglo-American media in comparison with other Political Prisoners. I think this article is on the right direction to cover this sensitive issue. Hopefully, the coverage will increase and become more inclusive.

  13. Sorry, I know this is way off topic, but does anyone know if Carol’s documentary will still be produced?

  14. he has been sentenced for 7 years in jail and 600 lashes.

    no wonder i stopped blogging >.<

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