Apostasy Charge Against Saudi Activist Dismissed

The apostasy case against Saudi activist Raif Badawi has been dismissed, his lawyer Waleed Abu Alkhair said on Twitter today. “It was not proven to the judges that the accused has insulted God or the Prophet,” Abu Alkhair added.

Badawi, the founder of a liberal internet forum, was arrested in Jeddah in June 2012. He is accused him of violating Islamic values, breaking Sharia law, blasphemy and mocking religious symbols using a website on the internet. Last December he was referred to a higher court for alleged apostasy, a charge that could lead to the death penalty.

Amnesty International, which considers Badawi to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, accused the Saudi government of using capital offense to stifle debate. “Even in Saudi Arabia where state repression is rife, it is beyond the pale to seek the death penalty for an activist whose only ‘crime’ was to enable social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

“Raif Badawi’s trial for ‘apostasy’ is a clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates.”

Criticism of religion is rarely tolerated in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that applies a strict interpretation of Islam. Prominent liberal writer Turki al-Hamad was detained last month for publishing controversial tweets about Islamists. Young writer Hamza Kashgari was arrested in February 2012 after he tweeted about Prophet Mohammed and he remains in prison.