Raif Badawi sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam

May 7, 2014

Last year, a court in Saudi Arabia handed down a shocking sentence to a young man named Raif Badawi: seven years in prison and 600 lashes. 

Badawi's alleged crimes? Founding a website, Liberal Saudi Network, that was dedicated to fostering debate on religion and politics; and calling on his country to respect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and women's rights. According to the Saudi court, Badawi, 30, was guilty of "insulting Islam."  

Badawi's has been one of the central cases in the Center for Inquiry's Campaign for Free Expression. Launched in 2012, the Campaign is an effort to highlight the most egregious examples of governments around the world restricting freedom of thought. Since launching the Campaign, I have personally made direct contact with Raif, his lawyer, and his family. We have been working collectively to raise awareness on Raif's case and secure his freedom.  

Late last year, we received some good news: Badawi's sentence was overturned by an appeals court, and his case was sent for review to Jeddah's Criminal Court. 

Today, however, we have received bad news: the Criminal Court has sentenced Badawi to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine (USD $266,631). 

To make matters worse, a Saudi court recently jailed Badawi's lawyer, Waleed Sami Abu Al-Khair, for his human rights activism (more on that story here). Which means Badawi is struggling to defend himself in a criminal justice system that is already stacked against "offenders." 

I should note the strange timing of today's news. Just a couple days ago, the Center for Inquiry, along with Muslins for Progressive Values, hosted a rally for Badawi's freedom at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. The event was one of several global demonstrations, organized under the banner "Stand for Raif Badawi on World Press Freedom Day," held in cities such as Ottawa, Canada; Madrid, Spain; Bern, Switzerland; Paris, France; and Tunis, Tunisia.

At our protest in D.C., we demanded three things from Saudi Arabia: 

1) Release Raif Badawi immediately and unconditionally;

2) Drop any pending charges against Badawi and others for "blasphemy," "insulting Islam," or "apostasy," which are protected by international human rights law, and;

3) Reform the country’s laws to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression.

In light of today's sentence, the Center for Inquiry will reiterate our demands to Saudi Arabia as we resolve to continue fighting for Raif Badawi's freedom.

CFI also urges you to join us by sending an appeal for Raif's freedom to one, or all, of the following officials. Together, we might be able to make a difference. 

King and Prime Minister                                       

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud                  
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King                                
Royal Court, Riyadh                                                  
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia                                            
Fax:  011 966 1 403 3125

Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125

Minister of Justice

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741 | +966 1 402 0311


His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 5983
Email: info@saudiembassy.net


#1 Ghulam Akbar Chatha (Guest) on Thursday May 08, 2014 at 9:36am

I am not an atheist but I do not believe in any religion. I am not a religious preacher and do not believe in holy books, holy personalities, places and prescribed prayers. I believe that religions and all related ceremonies are man made. I am author of a book, FAITH,NOT RELIGIONS. Atheists have a challenge for religions that there is no God and I have that How can there be such a God? If an atheist simply says, ” Yes, there is a God “. It makes my faith and I have nothing in addition to teach.

#2 Mark Lambert (Guest) on Friday May 09, 2014 at 8:35am

What century are we living in?

#3 Ghulam Akbar Chatha (Guest) on Friday May 09, 2014 at 1:05pm

Neither I nor you know about the beginning of time and nobody would ever know. Where from to count?

#4 Heber Smith (Guest) on Saturday May 10, 2014 at 7:52pm

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

If Allah was so all-powerful it certainly would not require mere mortals to defend it.  Your action and those of your ilk prove conclusively that it is imaginary.

#5 Ghulam Akbar Chatha (Guest) on Sunday May 11, 2014 at 7:57am

The God I believe in is not essentially Allah. That is an Arabic word but my faith is not Arabic. You can call Almighty by any name, in any language or just think about with out any name. When I say, ” I am not preaching any religion”. I really and totally mean it. To impose a language, a scripture even a particular names for God over other is definitely religious.

Free your thoughts, and you are “put of religion.” Meditate on universe and nature, and you are “in spirituality.”

The God certainly does not need my defense. The matter you are referring about is perhaps about free will. Do you mean that the God should settle all matters and problems leaving no room for any wrong doing? I think you favor freedom, liberalism,democracy and not dictatorship, fundamentalism or suppression. Am I right?

#6 Bill Carter (Guest) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 at 8:22am

Obiviously the Saudis are not real Muslims.
Everybody knows that Islam is the most tolerant religion on the planet and therefore Muslims must be the most tolerant people on the planet, therefore these people are obivously not Muslims.

#7 Ghulam Akbar Chatha (Guest) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 at 9:16am

OH, happy to receive comments from you. I believe that other religions changed a lot to reconcile with the changing/challenging time; did civilized their suppressive behavior and to some extant un-acceptable theories. Did/does The God need to be civilized? What a God or gods?
The history of Islam and information about holy personalities is well known and also Sharia laws are very clearly mentioned. I challenge you that beyond Sharia in Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaida, Taliban, and Boko- Haram are asking and acting for pure Sharia. I believe that all religions are man made. Are you in USA? If you are not please request any Muslim scholar or scholars to get engage with me in an open debate/ discussion. I am bound to reach the required destination within USA.I am also willing for discussion on line. Please just let me know, thank you.

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