Category Archives: Case

Hamad Al-Naqi

Hamad Al-Naqi is a Shia Muslim who in February and March 2012 allegedly made a series of posts on Twitter critical of the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the Prophet Muhammad, his wife Aisha, and his followers. Several members of the National Assembly of Kuwait called for his death. Al-Naqi pled not guilty, arguing that he had not posted the messages, and that his account had been hacked.

In June 2012, Al-Naqi was found guilty of “insulting the Prophet, the Prophet’s wife and companions, mocking Islam, provoking sectarian tensions, insulting the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and misusing his mobile phone to spread the comments” and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Al-Naqi was attacked within weeks of entering prison and has been put in solitary confinement for safety reasons. His lawyers appealed his sentence but, in July 2014, Kuwait’s top court upheld his sentence.

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    Rimsha Masih

    Rimsha Masih is a young Christian girl, believed to be developmentally disabled and around fourteen years in age, who faced charges in Pakistan for allegedly burning sacred Muslim documents—a crime punishable by death in that country.

    Masih was arrested in August 2012 after a local cleric, Mohammad Khalid Chisti, said she had burned pages of the Noorani Qaida, a religious book used to teach the Qu’ran to children. Hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside of the police station where Masih was being held, demanding she face formal charges.

    The case took a turn in September 2012, when police arrested Chisti and charged him with fabricating evidence against Masih. Masih has since been cleared of the charges against her. However, Rimsha and her family will feel the consequences of the charges forever, as they—along with many Christians living nearby—have already relocated from their home and live in hiding in fear of vigilante retribution.

    On June 30, 2013, it was announced that Rimsha and her family had safely relocated to Canada.

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      Hamza Kashgari

      Hamza Kashgari is a twenty-three-year-old Saudi-born poet who formerly worked as a columnist for the Saudi daily newspaper al-Bilad. In February 2012, Kashgari posted messages on Twitter in which he imagined himself being in conversation with the Prophet Muhammad. Soon after, Saudi King Abdullah ordered that Kashgari be arrested “for crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet.”

      Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia to seek political asylum in New Zealand and Malaysia. However, Kashgari was eventually arrested and extradited back home, where he was being held and faced charges as severe as the death penalty.

      Fortunately, Kashgari was finally released on October 29, 2013.

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        Bahá’í Seven

        In March and May of 2008, Iranian police arrested seven Bahá’í leaders and charged them with espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic, and the establishment of an illegal administration. Their crime? Peacefully practicing their religion in a country where Shia Islam is the law of the land and those who belong to minority faiths, such as the Bahá’ís, are denied equal rights.

        In June 2010, the seven Bahá’í leaders—Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm—were sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. The seven have now spent more than 10,000 days in prison, with no prospect of release until 2028.

        Unfortunately, this is but one example of the systematic, government-led harassment that the more than 300,000 Bahá’ís face in Iran. Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, recently described Iran as among the most “extreme manifestations of religious intolerance and persecution” in the world today.
         

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          Asia Bibi

          Asia Bibi is a Christian mother of five who was living as a farm worker in Pakistan. In 2010, Bibi was alleged to have made blasphemous remarks following a disagreement with a Muslim coworker who refused to drink from a container of water she carried, believing it was tainted. In November 2010, Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and became the first woman to be sentenced to death in Pakistan for that crime. She remains in jail while her case is being appealed.

          Several prominent Pakistani politicians have been assassinated for criticizing blasphemy laws and supporting her freedom, including Salmaan Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minister for Minority Affairs.

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          Washiqur Rahman

          Washiqur Rahman was a travel executive and blogger who published under various pseudonyms, focusing on promoting rationalism and exposing fundamentalism.

          In March 2015, Rahman was on his way to work when he was attacked and killed by a group of men of men with machetes.

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          Avijit Roy

          Dr. Avijit Roy was a Bangladeshi-American human rights activist and blogger known for his work defending freedom of thought and critical thinking.  

          In 2001, Roy founded a forum for Bengali freethinkers called Mukto-Mona.  Roy’s mission for Mukto-Mona was “to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science.”  Within a few years of its formation, Mukto-Mona grew from a simply forum to a website featuring articles from Bengali, and even non-Bengali, activists and academics (more here).

          In April 2013, in response to the Bangladeshi government arresting four atheist bloggers, Roy coordinated with Michael De Dora of the Center for Inquiry to organize worldwide protests for freedom of expression. 

          In February 2015, Roy revisited Bangledesh with his wife for the Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka. They were attacked but extremists armed with machetes; Roy died, and his wife barely survived.

          Roy was the author of eight books. He also wrote articles for the Center for Inquiry’s magazine Free Inquiry. His last article, titled “The Virus of Faith,” can be accessed here.

          In addition, Roy had earned a PhD in biomedical engineering from the National University of Singapore.

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          Niloy Neel

          Niloy Chakraborty Neeloy, also known by his pen name Niloy Neel, was an organizer for the Science and Rationalist Association of Bangladesh. He wrote for various platforms, including the Bengali freethinkers blog Mukto-Mona.

          In August 2015, Neel was at home with his wife when extremists snuck into his home and killed him, in his wife’s presence.

          Neel had earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Dhaka University.

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          Sanal Edamaruku

          Indian-born Sanal Edamaruku is founder and president of Rationalist International, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, and author of several newsletters and books. Edamaruku gained attention in April 2012, when he exposed a supposed “miracle” at a Catholic Church by revealing that a weeping cross was actually the result of a leaky drain.

          Upset with Edamaruku’s actions, the Church filed a complaint under Section 295 of the country’s penal code, which prohibits the hurting of religious sentiments. Local police have requested that Edamaruku turn himself in and face the charges. Edamaruku has rejected their request and to avoid arrest has been living in exile in Finland. He has also been traveling throughout Europe to speak about his case.

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            Alber Saber

            Alber Saber, 28, is a prominent Egypt-born activist who was arrested during the 2012 protests in Cairo over a film made in the United States that depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a negative light. Saber, raised in a Coptic Christian household, is an atheist who operated the Egyptian Atheists page on Facebook and has been a vocal proponent of secular government and critic of fundamentalism.

            On September 14, 2012, a crowd of hundreds formed outside of Saber’s home chanting “Allahu Akbar” and demanding that Saber be arrested for allegedly posting a link to the film, along with other crimes such as insulting religion. When the police arrived, they arrested Saber and put him in jail. Saber was reportedly beaten after a prison guard announced his charges to others in Saber’s cell.

            On December 12, 2012, a court sentenced Saber to three years in prison. Upon being released on bail, Saber was able to escape Egypt. He currently resides in Europe.

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