Saudi Arabia: Imprisoned Blogger Raif Badawi May Face Death Penalty
According to unconfirmed reports, blogger Raif Badawi may now face a retrial for Apostasy in Saudi Arabia, which could result in the death penalty if he is convicted. Badawi was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison, one thousand lashes, a fine, a 10-year travel ban, and a 10-year media participation ban for “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website.” PEN is calling for Badawi’s current conviction to be overturned; for his sentence of flogging to be halted immediately, as it violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment; and for him not to be retried for Apostasy, as this would breach his right to freedom of belief.
PEN International also reiterates its call for the release of Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence.
For extracts of Raif Badawi’s writings in English and Arabic, click here.
SIGN THE PETITION: This week, Germany’s Minister of Economic Affairs, will travel to Saudi Arabia—and if he uses his influence to take a stand for Raif, he could spur Saudi leaders to reconsider. Read and sign the petition by Raif's wife, Ensaf Haider.
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Raef 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 as well as 600 lashes after he was convicted under the information technology law of “founding a liberal website,” “adopting liberal thought,” and “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, an appeal submitted by Badawi’s lawyer, Walid 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 Appeal 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, wass reported to be in poor health.
On May 7 2014, Jeddah’s Criminal Court increased Badawi's sentence to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine of one 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 10-year ban from participating in visual, electronic, and written media, both to be applied following his release.
According to the Centre For Inquiry (CFI), in a post dated September 17, 2014, the Saudi appeals court in Mecca confirmed the sentence against Badawi and stated that the lashes would be administered 50 at a time, in public, every week after Friday Prayers. The first 50 lashes were given outside al-Jafali mosque in the port city of Jeddah on January 9, 2015. The following week, the authorities postponed Badawi’s flogging on medical grounds after a doctor said wounds from the previous lashing had not healed. On January 16, 2015 his wife Ensaf Haider, who lives in Canada with the couple’s three young children, said that King Abdullah had referred the case to the Supreme Court.
On March 1, Ensaf Haider said that she had received information that Badawi could face the death penalty. The same day, his family posted the following information on Facebook:
"We … received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif's case to the same judge who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment. This judge is biased against Raif. He has twice requested that Raif be charged with ‘apostasy.’ His request was declined at the time on the ground that the Criminal Court has no jurisdiction on cases that lead to death penalty. However, due to a new regulation issued by the Supreme Judicial Council on 19.09.2014, the Penal Court has now jurisdiction over major cases, which are punishable by the death penalty, amputation, and stoning.
We have reasons to believe without any doubts that the same judge has again asked the Head of the Court of Appeal [sic] to charge Raif with ‘Apostasy’.
It should be mentioned that this judge stated in his written verdict against Raif that he has proof and is confident that Raif is an apostate.’"
Write A Letter
Please send appeals:
- Urging the Saudi Arabian authorities to release Raif Badawi and his lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair immediately and unconditionally as they are being held solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression;
- Calling for Raif Badawi’s sentence of flogging to be overturned immediately as it violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
- Urging the Saudi authorities not to bring any charge of apostasy against Raif Badawi
- Calling for both Badawi and Abu al-Khair to be granted all necessary medical treatment and access to their families and lawyers of their choice;
- Calling on Saudi Arabia to ratify, without reservation, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Send Your Letter To
Appeals should be sent to:
King Salman 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
Salutation: Your Majesty
Minister of 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: 011 966 11 403 3125
Salutation: Your Excellence
Minister of Justice
His Excellency Dr. Walid bin Mohammad bin Saleh Al-Samaani
Ministry of Justice
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 011 966 11 401 1741 / 011 66 11 402 031
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible.
***Please send appeals immediately.***