A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a blogger and activist to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes for setting up a “liberal” network and insulting Islam.
The sentence for Raef Badawi was handed down on Wednesday in a Jeddah court. Badawi was arrested last June and sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes. But an appeals court overturned the ruling and ordered a retrial. In addition to a harsher sentence, the court on Wednesday also ordered Badawi to pay a $266,000 fine.
The network that he co-founded with another activist, Suad al-Shammari, had declared May 7 2012 a “day of liberalism” and called for an end to the dominance of religion over public life in the kingdom. Shamari said the network’s website had “criticised some clerics, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (religious police), in addition to religious fatwas (edicts) considered harmful to Islam.
“Clerics have filed a lawsuit against him. The government tries to appease them, at our expense sometimes,” AFP news agency reported her as saying. Shamari said the network was only active online, adding: “Our activities remain virtual.” Amnesty International called Wednesday’s ruling “outrageous”.
Phillip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said: “He [Badawi] is a prisoner of conscience who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression. “Raif Badawi is the latest victim to fall prey to the ruthless campaign to silence peaceful activists in Saudi Arabia.
“The authorities seem determined to crush all forms of dissent through every means at their disposal, including imposing harsh prison sentences and corporal punishment on activists.” [AFP]