‘Saudi Liberals’ Founder Raif Badawi Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail and 1,000 Lashes

Raif Badawi

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced the founder and editor of a website called Saudi Liberals to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes on May 7th. Raif Badawi, who set up the internet forum to discuss the role of religion in conservative Islamic kingdoms, was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes initially but his sentence was made even stiffer after an appeals court overturned the first sentence and ordered a retrial in July 2013.

Apart from imposing a stiffer sentence, the judge at the criminal court in the Red Sea City of Jeddah also fined Badawi one million riyals or $266,600. The ruling is subject to appeal and Badawi’s lawyers claim the sentence is too harsh even though the prosecutor demanded a harsher penalty. In 2013, the prosecution had sought Badawi be tried for apostasy, a crime which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. However, the judge who presided over the trial in 2013 dismissed those charges.

Badawi was arrested in June 2012 with charges related to cybercrime and disobeying his father. His website was found to carry articles that criticized senior religious figures in Saudi Arabia like the Grand Mufti. His website has been closed since.

Saudi Arabia abides by the strict Wahhabi school of Islam and implements the Sharia law, which allows different judges to interpret religious laws in any way they like instead of following a single and uniform written legal code. Unnerved by the recent uprisings that threatened to destabilize the Middle East, Riyadh intensified a crackdown on domestic dissent with a sudden increase in arrests and prosecutions.

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