Saudi Arabia: Editor Raef Badawi sentenced to long prison term

5 August 2013 – Update #1 to RAN 02/13

PEN International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of editor Raef Badawi who was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and 600 lashes on 29 July 2013 by a court in Jeddah after conviction under the information technology law of creating and managing an online forum.which “undermined national security”. He was also convicted of “insulting religious symbols” and criticising the religious police and officials calling for gender segregation in the Shura Council. The online forum, Liberal Saudi Network – created to foster political and social debate in Saudi Arabia – was ordered closed by the judge.

PEN International welcomes the release on 5 June 2013 of writer Turki Alhamad after more than five months in detention without trial apparently in connection with comments he posted on Twitter.  Writer Hamza Kashgari is believed to remain detained facing blasphemy charges.

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Please send appeals:

  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Raef Badawi and Hamza Kashgari as they are held solely for peacefully expressing their opinions, in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • Urging that Raef Badawi’s flogging sentence not be carried out as it would violate the international absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Calling for both men to be granted immediate and regular access to their families, lawyers of their choice and all necessary medical care, and to be protected from torture or other ill-treatment.

Appeals to be sent 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

Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince 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 Excellency

Minister of Justice
His Excellency Shaykh Dr Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice,
University Street
Riyadh 11137 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 401 1741 + 966 11 402 0311
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible.***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 02 September 2013. ***

Background Information

Raef Badawi was arrested on 17 June 2012 in Jeddah after organising a conference to mark a “day of liberalism”. The conference, which was to have taken place in Jeddah on 7 May, was banned by the authorities.  A written copy of the verdict is expected to be provided to his lawyer by 6 August, after which he will have 30 days in which to lodge an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Hamza Kashgari was extradited on 9 February 2012 from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia is still 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 4 February 2012.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, restrictions on right to freedom of expression are not permissible unless they are provided by law, for the purpose of protecting certain public interests (national security, public order, public health or morals) or the rights of others, and, in each case, are demonstrably necessary and proportionate for the achievement of that purpose. Criminalisation of the peaceful criticism of public officials and institutions violates international human rights law. Corporal punishment such as flogging also violates the absolute prohibition under international law of all forms of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.