A secular blogger in Saudi Arabia, who was previously sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison, could possibly face the death sentence for apostasy.
While international human rights proponents already view Raif Badawi’s imprisonment as an attempt to intimidate free speech in the Gulf kingdom; his death penalty – on the other hand – would only make the Saudi regime look more oppressive than ever.
A judge recommended Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar to go before a high court where the activist will be tried for denouncing the state religion of Islam, or apostasy which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, according to non-profit human rights organization Amnesty International.
Badawi initially got into trouble for creating the “Saudi Liberal Network” in 2008. The website was meant to be a discussion forum for seculars, like himself, who didn’t have any other platform in Saudi Arabia to voice their slightly “different” opinions.
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In June 2012, prosecutors arrested Badawi for operating a website deemed insulting to Islam. He was charged with criticizing the religious police, prominent religious figures as well as calling for "religious liberalization." Subsequently, he was banned from leaving the country and his family’s bank accounts were reportedly frozen. His wife and three children are currently living in exile in Lebanon.
Several rights activists, bloggers and journalists have been sentenced to jail for being ‘outspoken’ or allegedly inciting religious hatred in Saudi Arabia, according to non-profit “Human Rights First Society.”
Critics of the royal family, government officials or key religious figures are mostly detained or subjected to imprisonment. Due to lack of any proper human rights legislation in the country, it’s all the more difficult for such people to fight against tyranny.
“Saudi Arabia does not allow political or human rights associations,” according to Human Rights Watch World Report 2013. “In December 2011, the authorities denied the Justice Center for Human Rights a license, and did not reply to requests for a license by the Saudi Human Rights Monitor, which registered in Canada in May.”
In August, a defected Saudi Prince Khalid Bin Farhan al-Saud revealed how the monarchy was single-handedly making all the important social, political, and judicial decisions in the country.
“There is no independent judiciary, as both police and the prosecutor’s office are accountable to the Interior Ministry. This ministry’s officials investigate ‘crimes’ (they call them crimes), related to freedom of speech. So they fabricate evidence, don’t allow people to have attorneys”, he stated.
Do you agree that Raif Badawi’s imprisonment – and worse – his death penalty is an attempt to stifle freedom of expression by the Saudi authorities? You can share your opinions in the comments section below.