The editor of an internet forum dedicated to discussing the role of religion in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced by a Saudi court to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of one million riyals ($266,600).
As Clarion Project reported, Raif Badawi was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for insulting Islam and violating the Kingdom’s anti-cybercrime law. However, last July, an appeals court threw out the verdict and ordered a new trial.
Lawyers for the prosecution had asked for a more severe penalty.
In his original trial, Badawi, the online editor of the “Free Saudi Liberals” forum was also found guilty of “parental disobedience” (a crime in Saudi Arabia) in connection to numerous arguments he had had with his father.
Badawi had left the country in 2008 after the initial charges of insulting Islam were filed against him. After being told that the charges were dropped, he returned, only to be barred from leaving the country again. His business assets were also frozen at the time.
Charges of apostasy – a crime in the Kingdom that carries the death penalty – that were pending against Badawi were dropped last July after Badawi testified in court that he is a Muslim.
Badawi founded the online platform in 2008 “to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia,” according to Human Rights Watch. The group also said that the judge affirmed that “liberalism is akin to unbelief.”
At his hearing last year, the judge prevented Badawi’s lawyer from representing him.
After his arrest, Badawi’s wife and children relocated out of the Kingdom last year to avoid backlash against the family.
Saudi Arabia has a history of detaining and convicting liberal activists ranging from human rights lawyers to demonstrators.