February 21, 2012

His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 1 403 3125
Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince 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

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the arrest and safety of writer Hamza Kashgari.

According to our information, on February 12, 2012, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old writer based in Jeddah, was extradited from Malaysia, where he had stopped on his way to seeking asylum in New Zealand, and returned to Saudi Arabia, where he was placed under arrest for blasphemy. Eight days earlier, on February 4, 2012, Kashgari tweeted a series of messages addressed to the Prophet Mohammed, some of which conveyed questions about his faith. Twitter registered more than 30,000 responses to his tweets within 24 hours, many of which accused him of blasphemy and called for his death. On February 6, Kashgari issued an apology and deleted his feed, but threats against him continued. Someone posted his home address in a YouTube video, and people searched for him at his local mosque. We understand that the Saudi information minister also banned publication of Kashgari’s work in the country

On February 7, 2012, Kashgari fled to Malaysia and was arrested the next day at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport en route to New Zealand, where he hoped to seek asylum. Kashgari was deported to Saudi Arabia on February 12, 2012, accompanied by Saudi officials on a private jet to King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned for the safety of Hamza Kashgari, who may face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, and for his immediate and effective protection outside prison walls.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write & International Programs

CC: H.E. Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Fax: (202) 944-5983

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