Rights Group Urges Saudi Government to Drop Charges Against Activist

The Saudi government should drop all charges against Raif Badawi, the detained activist and founder of a liberal forum, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Badawi’s life hangs in the balance because he set up a liberal website that provided a platform for an open and peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi Arabia needs to stop treating peaceful debate as a capital offense.”

Badawi was arrested in Jeddah last June, and he has been on trial for the past few months. The government is accusing him of violating Islamic values, breaking Sharia law, blasphemy and mocking religious symbols using a website on the internet. Last Monday, a judge at a lower court in Jeddah referred Badawi to a higher court, saying he “could not give a verdict in a case of apostasy,” according a rights activist who spoke to AFP.

The case against Badawi aims “to punish him and intimidate others who dare to debate matters of religion,” Goldstein said. “The authorities should drop the charges against him.”