A Saudi Arabian court sentenced website editor Raif Badawi to 10 years in  prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (approx. US$266,631) on charges of “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website” by Jeddah’s Criminal Court on May 7, 2014. According to PEN’s information, the court subsequently handed down two additional penalties: a 10-year travel ban and a 10-year media participation ban, which will take effect upon his release. Raif Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, who has written many articles, has since been arrested in a separate case. PEN calls for Badawi’s conviction to be quashed and for the immediate and unconditional release of both men.

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Background Information

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, in Jeddah after organizing a conference to mark a “day of liberalism.” The conference, which was to have taken place in Jeddah on May 7, was banned 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, the appeal, submitted by Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, 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 Appeals had reversed the ruling of the District Court in Jeddah, ordering that Badawi’s case be sent for review by another court. Badawi, who suffers from diabetes, is reported to be in poor health.
On May 7, 2014, Jeddah’s Criminal Court sentenced Badawi to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (approx. US$266,631) on charges of "insulting Islam" and "founding a liberal website." According to PEN’s information, when Badawi appeared in court to collect a written account of the verdict on May 28, 2014, he discovered the insertion of two additional penalties: a 10-year travel ban and a 10-year ban from participating in visual, electronic, and written media, both to be applied following his release. For more information about his case, please read PEN’s interview with his wife Ensaf Haidar here.
PEN is also concerned by reports of the arrest of Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu Al-Khair, on April 15, 2014. Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a lawyer and human rights activist who has written many articles. According to PEN’s information, Abu Al-Khair was arrested at the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh while he was attending the fifth session of his own trial. Initially held in Al Hair prison, where there were concerns that he may have been subjected to ill-treatment, he was transferred to Briman Prison in Jeddah on May 27, 2014. On February 4, 2014, the Court of Appeals confirmed a three-month sentence imposed after Al-Khair had been convicted of contempt of the judiciary. Abu Al-Khair is also reported to be standing trial for other charges made against him in 2013, which include: “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler and disrespecting the authorities”; “offending the judiciary”; “inciting international organizations against the Kingdom” and “founding an unlicensed organization” (Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia), and supervising it and contributing to the establishment of another (the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, orACPRA); and “preparing, storing, and sending material harmful to public order.” According to the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, "these charges have already been considered by the criminal court in Jeddah, which sentenced him to three months' imprisonment." Abu Al-Khair is the recipient of the 2012 Olof Palme Prize. His eighth trial session is due to be held on June 26, 2014.
Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “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. 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

  • Condemning the Jeddah Criminal Court’s sentencing of editor Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (approx. US$266,631), as well as a 10-year travel ban and a 10-year media participation ban on charges of “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website” on May 7, 2014;
  • Calling for the Saudi Arabian authorities to overturn Raif Badawi’s sentence;
  • Urging them to release Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair immediately and unconditionally as they are being held solely for their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • In the meantime, calling for both men to be granted all necessary medical treatment and access to their families and lawyers of their choice.

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, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 1 403 3125
Salutation: Your Majesty
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
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Justice
His Excellency Shaykh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice,
University Street
Riyadh 11137 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 401 1741 + 966 11 402 0311
Salutation: Your Excellency
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible. 
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after July 3, 2014.