A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced an unnamed 28-year-old man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for posting about his Atheism on Twitter. He was also fined 20,000 riyals – about $5,300.
During his trial, the official report says, he “admitted to being an atheist,and refused to repent, saying that what he wrote reflected his own beliefs and that he had the right to express them.” It went on to state that “religious police” in charge of monitoring social networks found more than 600 tweets denying the existence of God, ridiculing verses from the Quran, accusing all prophets of lies and saying that their teaching fueled hostilities.
Saudi Arabia cracks down on any form of political dissent, including challenges to Islam. As a result, they have been strongly criticized by human right watchdog groups.
In 2014, under the late King Abdullah, a set of royal decrees and new legislation was introduced that, among other things, were supposedly meant to combat terrorism. But these laws also allow authorities “to criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the government and its understanding of Islam,” according to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
Article One of the new provisions defined terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based”.
In other words, Atheism is “terrorism.”
A similar verdict was handed down in February, 2016, to a Saudi Arabian man for posting hundreds of tweets denying the existence of God and criticizing religion. His punishment was the same: a decade in prison, 2,000 lashes and a fine.
“No one should face arrest for peacefully expressing opinions, much less corporal punishment and prison. Saudi justice officials must urgently intervene to vacate this unjust sentence,” Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch said.
A WIN/Gallup International poll taken in 2012 found that 5 percent of Saudi respondents described themselves as Atheists, and anecdotal reports suggest that non-belief may be on the rise in the country.
Photo Credits: Pakatan Rakyat