A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced Raif Badawi, co-founder of the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” site and Internet activist, to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail. He has also been given a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals, or the equivalent of about 266,631 U.S. dollars.
The site which Badawi had set up several years ago was an online forum intended to encourage debate regarding Saudi politics, liberal ideas and Islam.
Badawi’s sentencing has drawn criticism from Amnesty International.
“The decision to sentence Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is outrageous. He is a prisoner of conscience who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression. The authorities must overturn his conviction and release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Amnesty National’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program Philip Luther.
According to the BBC, Badawi was arrested because his website undermines general security in Saudi Arabia and also ridicules religious figures. It has since been taken down from the Internet. This is not the first time Badawi has faced punishment from his country, as he was also arrested in 2012 for cyber crime and apostasy. He was cleared of the latter charge, which spared him the usual punishment of the death penalty.
Badawi’s imprisonment sends a signal to the outside world regarding Saudi Arabia’s policy towards dissent, and Amnesty International’s involvement emphasizes the human rights issues involved in the case.