PEN is deeply concerned by a judge’s recommendation, made on December 25, 2013, to refer the editor Raif Badawi to the Saudi General Court on charges of “apostasy.” If convicted, Badawi could face the death penalty. PEN reiterates its call for Badawi’s immediate and unconditional release. In December 2013, the Saudi Court of Appeal undertook the decision to review Badawi’s prison sentence following his conviction on July 29, 2013, under the information technology law of “founding a liberal website,” “adopting liberal thought,” and “insulting Islam.”

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Background Information

Raif Badawi was arrested in Jeddah on June 17, 2012, after organizing a conference to mark a “day of liberalism.” The conference, which was to have taken place in the city on May 7, was shut down by the authorities. On July 29, 2013, a court in Jeddah sentenced Badawi to seven years and three months in prison and 600 lashes after he was convicted under the information technology law of “founding a liberal website,” “adopting liberal thought,” and for insulting Islam. The online forum, Liberal Saudi Network—created to foster political and social debate in Saudi Arabia—was ordered closed by the judge.

According to reports, Badawi’s lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair subsequently filed an appeal that cited procedural and evidential reasons why the conviction should be overturned and Badawi should be freed. In December 2013, it was reported that the Court of Appeal had reversed the ruling of the District Court in Jeddah, dropped a charge of apostasy, and ordered that Badawi’s case be sent for review by another court. However, on December 25, 2013, the newly-appointed judge reportedly remanded Badawi to the General Court on charges of apostasy, stating that the lower court was not qualified to deal with the case. According to PEN’s information, the apostasy charge is only a recommendation from the judge and not a decision. If convicted of apostasy, Badawi could face the death penalty.

Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Criminalization of the peaceful criticism of public officials and institutions violates international human rights law. Article 19 of the UDHR also provides for freedom of belief. Corporal punishment such as flogging also violates the absolute prohibition under international law of all forms of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the judge’s December 25, 2013 recommendation to remand editor Raif Badawi for trial to the General Court on charges of apostasy;
  • Reminding the Saudi Arabian authorities that freedom of belief, including the right to change religion or hold no religion is a right protected under international law;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Raif Badawi as he is being held solely for peacefully expressing his opinions, in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and urging that on no account should he be sentenced to death.

Send Your Letter To

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
Salutation: Your Majesty

His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933, Airport Road,
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125
Salutation: Your Excellency

His Excellency Shaykh Dr Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Issa
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice,
University Street
Riyadh 11137 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 401 1741 + 966 11 402 0311
Salutation: Your Excellency