Saudi website editor sentenced to seven years in prison, lashes

DUBAI Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:41am EDT

Related Topics

DUBAI (Reuters) - The editor of a Saudi Arabian social website has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an Internet forum that violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought, Saudi media reported on Tuesday.

Raif Badawi, who started the "Free Saudi Liberals" website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia, has been held since June 2012 on charges of cyber crime and disobeying his father - a crime in the conservative kingdom and top U.S. ally.

Al-Watan newspaper said the judge had also ordered the closure of the website.

France was concerned by the sentence and remained committed to "freedom of opinion and of expression", the foreign ministry said in a statement. Officials from the Saudi National Society for Human Rights could not be reached for comment.

Badawi's website included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as the Grand Mufti, according to Human Rights Watch.

The watchdog said in December that Badawi faced a possible death sentence after a judge cited him for apostasy, but Al-Watan said the judge dropped the apostasy charges.

Apostasy, the act of changing religious affiliation, carries an automatic death sentence in Saudi Arabia, along with other crimes including blasphemy.

Badawi's wife denied her husband had expressed repentance before the judge on Monday at a court in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. "The judge asked Raif 'Are you a Muslim?' and he said 'Yes, and I don't accept anyone to cast doubt on (my belief)'," she wrote on Twitter.

The world's top oil exporter follows the strict Wahhabi school of Islam and applies Islamic law, or sharia.

Judges base their decisions on their own interpretation of religious law rather than on a written legal code or on precedent.

King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's ruler, has pushed for reforms to the legal system, including improved training for judges and the introduction of precedent to standardize verdicts and make courts more transparent.

However, Saudi lawyers say that conservatives in the Justice Ministry and the judiciary have resisted implementing many of the changes announced in 2007.

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; additional reporting by Alexandria Sage in Paris, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
Barbaric. I know the Arabs have their own calendar, so I guess it must be the equivalent of 1000 A.D. over there. I noticed that all the Islamic apologists that haunt these comment lists somehow disappeared when that Norwegian woman was imprisoned for having been raped. They’ll probably be missing here as well. Guess they can’t figure out how the “Zionists” are to blame for this.

600 lashes! If I allowed the reality of this to actually sink in, I’d have to vomit. But I guess it’s better than beheading and daily suicide bombing massacres.

Jul 30, 2013 8:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
regan4000 wrote:
Absolutely appalling.

Jul 30, 2013 8:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Reuters1945 wrote:
@From_California

Your comments are spot on and expresses the feelings of countless people who read this item in utter shock and amazement.

Imagine if the State of Israel or even the far less hated France, or US, imposed such a sentence on a person for such alleged “crimes”.

There would be a worldwide outrage and an immediate Third Intifada in Israel with massive rioting, suicide bombings and oceans of blood in the streets.

Saudi Arabia is clearly one of the most repressive, backward and in instances such as this, barbaric and blood thirsty, nations on the face of the planet.

Note how, as always in such case, we read that:

” King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s ruler, has pushed for reforms to the legal system, including improved training for judges and the introduction of precedent to standardize verdicts and make courts more transparent.”

As though the King of a totally repressive, one man rule, Dictatorship, has so little power to intervene in such cases of Judicial insanity and overt legally sanctioned criminality.

This verdict should serve as a wake up call to every man, woman and child on Earth, just what is entailed when a country follows the strict Wahhabi school of Islam and applies Islamic law, or sharia law.

This is what would be the result if the so-called Rebels (read Terrorists and Cannibals), succeeded in toppling Assad and taking control of the nation of Syria.

But the US and most nations will turn a blind eye to this latest human rights outrage because Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter and thus will say as little as possible regarding the fate of Raif Badawi, who started the “Free Saudi Liberals” website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia.

One is well advised to stay well clear of entering this barbaric nation that still follows the norms of the Middle Ages where expressing one’s opinions can get you 600 lashes and where something you say, could literally get you beheaded.

Although a person well acquainted with the entire history, including up to the present, of “man’s inhumanity to man”, I do not recall reading anything for some time that I have found to be so viscerally and physically upsetting.

Who can begin to even imagine what will be left of this condemned man after he receives the 600 lashes. What will be left of him to be placed in some dirty Saudi Arabian dungeon to serve out his seven year sentence for the crime of expressing his thoughts.

Yet the entire world’s attention will continue, as usual, to focus on the alleged transgressions of the tiny State of Israel, a place where Mr. Raif Badawi would likely be willing to trade everything he has in this world, to be right now.

Amazing how possessing a massive amount of the world’s remaining fossil fuel can allow a country to get away with just about anything whilst the rest of the world remains in a state of, “Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil”.

Must stop here and search for an “Air Sickness” bag. Really do feel I am just about ready to be sick.

“…seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an Internet forum” Right !

Jul 30, 2013 9:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.