Liberal Forum Founder Sentenced to Jail and Flogging

A Saudi judge sentenced the founder of a liberal Internet forum to jail and flogging, his lawyer said on Monday. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes, his lawyer Waleed Abu Alkhair said on Twitter.

The judge also ordered the closure of the Internet forum, the lawyer said, although the site has been actually shut down following Badawi’s arrest in June 2012.

Badawi has been on trial in the coastal city of Jeddah. The government is accusing him of violating Islamic values, breaking Sharia law, blasphemy and mocking religious symbols using a website on the internet.

Last December Badawi was referred to a higher court for alleged apostasy, a charge that could lead to the death penalty, but that charge was later dismissed because “it was not proven to the judges that the accused has insulted God or the Prophet,” his lawyer said.

Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have urged the Saudi government to drop charges against Badawi and release him.