Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender and editor Raef Badawi sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in prison plus 600 lashes
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received information that human rights defender and editor Raef Badawi has been sentenced to 7 years and 3 months imprisonment in addition to 600 lashes. Raef Badawi is co-founder and editor of the website Liberal Saudi Network, which he set up with other human rights activists including the well-known human rights defender Suad Al- Shammari. The Liberal Saudi Network is a website and on-line forum created to foster political and social debate in Saudi Arabia.
On 29 July 2013, Raef Badawi was sentenced by the District Court in Jeddah to 7 years and 3 months imprisonment in addition to 600 lashes and the shutdown of the Web Site "The Liberal Saudi Network" after being convicted of the following charges:
1. Apostasy (Hadd - a capital offence) is established but as he declared that there is no God but Allah, the death penalty is replaced with an expurgation sentence as outlined above.
2. Setting up a website that has the name of "liberal".
The verdict will be delivered to his lawyer Waleed Abu Alkhair on 7 August 2013 after which an appeal needs to be initiated within 30 days.
Raef Badawi was arrested on 17 June 2012 in Jeddah following an announcement by the Liberal Saudi Network for 7 May 2012 to be a "day of liberalism" in Saudi Arabia. A conference, which was to be held in Jeddah for the occasion, was cancelled after the organizers said they had been "advised" by authorities not to proceed with the event.
On 17 December 2012, Raef Badawi appeared before the District Court in Jeddah charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience”. However, it was not clear what words or activities provoked the prosecution. The Judge transferred the case to the higher Public Court on a charge of apostasy (renunciation of a religious faith), which carries with it a penalty of death. On 22 December 2012, the General Court in Jeddah decided to proceed with the apostasy charges.
The GCHR condemns the sentencing of Raef Badawi, as the conviction is solely based on his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights in Saudi Arabia.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Raef Badawi;
2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Raef Badawi;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in KSA are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“, and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration.”
Please write immediately in English or in Arabic:
• To express your concern about the imprisonment of human rights defender Raef Badawi and to call for his immediate release;
• To urge the authorities in Saudi Arabia to immediately stop the targeting of human rights defenders.
Please Send Appeals now TO:
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:+966 1 403 3125
Crown Prince and Minister of Defence & Aviation
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin
Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of Defence and Aviation,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1336