Saudi Injustice Exposed: Judicial Document Details Barbaric Punishment of Raif Badawi

For Immediate Release: December 1, 2014
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry has acquired the full text of a disturbing official judicial document from Saudi Arabia, detailing the state-sanctioned persecution and barbaric sentencing of Raif Badawi, a man convicted of operating a liberal online discussion forum. Badawi’s inhuman punishment includes 10 years in prison and weekly public floggings amounting to a total of 1000 lashes. 

The judicial opinion from the Criminal Court in Jeddah was translated and provided by Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, to the Center for Inquiry (CFI), an international organization promoting science, secularism, and human rights. The document provides a rare look into the inner-workings of the Saudi judicial system, including the theocratic basis upon which it punishes those who dare question the government or its interpretation of Islam. Download the full translation here:

“This opinion is an example of theocracy at its worst, and reads like something out of the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, CFI’s president and CEO, and author of the new book The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do. “The Saudi court declares Western liberalism to be incompatible with Islam, but it is Saudi Arabia’s medieval system of justice that is incompatible with civilization in 2014.”

Badawi, a 30-year-old father of three, was convicted of “insulting Islam” and other crimes of dissent in 2013 for founding the website Liberal Saudi Network, which was dedicated to fostering debate on religion and politics, and promoting respect for the freedom of religion, belief, and expression, as well as women’s rights. For his crime, Badawi was sentenced seven years in prison and 600 lashes, which was in May increased to 10 years and 1000 lashes, plus an onerous fine and a ban on travel and access to electronic media for 10 years following his prison term.

Michael De Dora, CFI’s UN representative, as well as the newly-elected president of the UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion and Belief, has been working on Badawi’s case.

“We’ve been acutely aware for some time that Saudi Arabia harshly punishes religious and political dissent,” he said. “But this document lays bare just how arbitrary and appalling its system truly is. Raif is not only being punished for founding a website, but for a host of non-offenses, such as not properly honoring his father, for believing that all persons should have the right to free speech regardless of their religion, and for expressing a desire to be away from Saudi Arabia, for which he can hardly be blamed.”

Added De Dora, “We have been committed to working to secure Raif’s freedom, and pressuring the Saudi government to respect and protect basic human rights, and we will continue to do so until true justice is done.”

CFI has repeatedly spoken out on Badawi’s behalf at the UN Human Rights Council, and on one such occasion this past July, the Saudi delegation tried unsuccessfully to shout down CFI’s spokesperson. In addition, CFI has also held protests, waged publicity campaigns, and worked alongside diplomatic allies to free Raif Badawi and return him to his family. Learn more about CFI’s efforts to fight blasphemy laws and other forms of religious persecution at the Campaign for the Free Expression


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at