PEN International fears for the safety of writer Turki Al-Hamad and editor Raif Badawi. Al-Hamad was arrested on December 24, 2012, after a series of controversial tweets, and is at risk of being charged with apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was also charged with apostasy for his online writings. PEN demands their immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also calls upon the Saudi authorities to ensure that they are treated humanely while detained.

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Background Information

Turki Al-Hamad was arrested on December 24, 2012, on the orders of the Minister of Interior Prince Mohammed Bin Naif for posting several tweets in which he criticized Islamists. The tweets caused strong reactions from the religious establishment.

Al-Hamad is a political analyst and a highly respected author and novelist, who was jailed in his youth for political activism before moving to the U.S. for graduate school. He has been previously denounced by clerics in Saudi Arabia for his novels, which are banned, and he reportedly received several death threats in 2003.

Raif Badawi is a co-founder and editor of the Liberal Saudi Network, a web site and online forum created to foster political and social debate in Saudi Arabia. He 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 Jeddah on May 7, was banned by the authorities.

On December 17, 2012, Badawi appeared before the district court in Jeddah charged with “setting up a web site that undermines general security,” “ridiculing Islamic religious figures” and “going beyond the realm of obedience.” It is reported that during the hearing the judge prevented Raif Badawi’s lawyer from representing him in court.  The judge transferred the case to the higher Public Court on a charge of apostasy (renunciation of a religious faith). On December 22, 2012, the General Court in Jeddah decided to proceed with the apostasy charges.  Badawi had previously been summoned before court in 2006 for “insulting Islam” after he posted critical comments about the Islamists and the Salafists on his web site.

In addition, writer Hamza Kashgari, who on February 9, 2012, was extradited from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, is still being detained. He is facing charges of blasphemy stemming from a series of tweets addressed to the Prophet Mohammed on the anniversary of the Prophet’s birth on February 4, 2012. It has been reported that a Sharia court in Riyadh has accepted his repentance in the presence of his family, and that he showed his regret over what he has written about the Prophet.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing grave concerns for the safety of writer Turki Al-Hamad, editor Raif Badawi, and writer Hamza Kashgari who are solely detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression;
  • Urging that they are immediately and unconditionally released, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • Calling upon the Saudi authorities to provide them with immediate and effective protection from torture and ill-treatment;
  • Urging authorities to stop using charges of apostasy to stifle freedom of expression.

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

Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin 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 Majesty and Minister of the Interior

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible.