Raif Badawi sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam

May 7, 2014

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Last year, a court in Saudi Arabia handed down a shocking sentence to a young man named Raif Badawi: seven years in prison and 600 lashes.

Badawi’s alleged crimes? Founding a website, Liberal Saudi Network, that was dedicated to fostering debate on religion and politics; and calling on his country to respect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and women’s rights. According to the Saudi court, Badawi, 30, was guilty of “insulting Islam.”

Badawi’s has been one of the central cases in the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression. Launched in 2012, the Campaign is an effort to highlight the most egregious examples of governments around the world restricting freedom of thought. Since launching the Campaign, I have personally made direct contact with Raif, his lawyer, and his family. We have been working collectively to raise awareness on Raif’s case and secure his freedom.

Late last year, we received some good news: Badawi’s sentence was overturned by an appeals court, and his case was sent for review to Jeddah’s Criminal Court.

Today, however, we have received bad news: the Criminal Court has sentenced Badawi to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine (USD $266,631).

To make matters worse, a Saudi court recently jailed Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Sami Abu Al-Khair, for his human rights activism (more on that story here). Which means Badawi is struggling to defend himself in a criminal justice system that is already stacked against “offenders.”

I should note the strange timing of today’s news. Just a couple days ago, the Center for Inquiry, along with Muslins for Progressive Values, hosted a rally for Badawi’s freedom at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. The event was one of several global demonstrations, organized under the banner “Stand for Raif Badawi on World Press Freedom Day,” held in cities such as Ottawa, Canada; Madrid, Spain; Bern, Switzerland; Paris, France; and Tunis, Tunisia.

At our protest in D.C., we demanded three things from Saudi Arabia:

1) Release Raif Badawi immediately and unconditionally;

2) Drop any pending charges against Badawi and others for “blasphemy,” “insulting Islam,” or “apostasy,” which are protected by international human rights law, and;

3) Reform the country’s laws to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression.

In light of today’s sentence, the Center for Inquiry will reiterate our demands to Saudi Arabia as we resolve to continue fighting for Raif Badawi’s freedom.

CFI also urges you to join us by sending an appeal for Raif’s freedom to one, or all, of the following officials. Together, we might be able to make a difference.

King and Prime Minister                                       

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax:  011 966 1 403 3125

Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125

Minister of Justice

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741 | +966 1 402 0311

Ambassador

His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 5983
Email: info@saudiembassy.net