On 7 May, a criminal court in Jeddah sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes for “insulting Islam”. Badawi was prosecuted for developing “Saudi Arabian Liberals”, an online forum he launched in 2008 debating the role of religion in the conservative kingdom.
The 32-year-old was also ordered to pay a one million riyals fine (approximately US$266,600).
The verdict is subject to appeal. But Badawi's lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, has also been jailed for setting up a human rights monitoring group, according to Human Rights Watch.
Arrested in June 2012 and tried in July 2013, Badawi originally was sentenced to six years in prison and 600 lashes. In December 2013, an appeals court overturned the initial verdict and referred the case back to the Jeddah Criminal Court.
Sad day for #humanRights #raifbadawi pic.twitter.com/zUTvOWe6Kg
— Yes we can (@Jihane_MD) May 7, 2014
Saudi Arabia, Britain's ally & top arms customer, has sentenced blogger @raif_badawi to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes #IStandWithRaif
— Daniel Wickham (@DanielWickham93) May 8, 2014
On his website, Badawi and other contributors posted articles critical of Saudi religious authorities and declared May 7 a day for Saudi liberals.
السجن بسبب منتدى يرحب بالجميع أن يتحاور،أن يطرح قناعاته للنقاش! منذ متى يغير السجن الفكر؟! #الحكم_على_رائف_بدوي pic.twitter.com/83g1ZznGXd
— طاهر الزهراني (@6aher_alzahrani) May 8, 2014
Jail over a forum that welcomed everyone to debate and present their arguments for discussion. Since when prison changes thought?
رائف كان ينتقد المجتمع الازدواجي و يدعوا للأنسانية و احترام الرأي الاخر اذا كانت هذه جريمه فانا مجرمة #السجن_10سنوات_لرائف_بدوي
— أميمه Omaima (@Omaima) May 7, 2014
Raif criticized a double-standard society and called for humanity and respect for the other's opinion. If this is a crime, then I declare myself a criminal
Prosecutors had previously charged Badawi with apostasy, a charge which could carry a death penalty in the Saudi kingdom.