Raif Badawi

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Raif Badawi
Born (1984-01-13) January 13, 1984 (age 30)
Saudi Arabia
Nationality Saudi Arabian
Occupation Writer and Activist
Known for blogging, 2012 apostasy charge
Awards Pen Canada One Humanity Award 2014

Raif Badawi (born c. 1984,[1] name also transcribed as Raef Badawi[2]) is a Saudi Arabian blogger and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals. On 17 June 2012, he was arrested on a charge of insulting Islam through electronic channels,[1] and in December of that year was also cited for apostasy, a conviction for which carries an automatic death sentence.[3][4] Human Rights Watch stated that Badawi's website had hosted material criticizing "senior religious figures".[4] Badawi had also suggested that Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University had become "a den for terrorists."[5]

Badawi was first detained on apostasy charges in 2008, but was released after a day of questioning.[1] The government banned him from leaving the country and froze his bank accounts in 2009.[6] The family of Badawi's wife subsequently filed a court action to forcibly divorce the couple on grounds of Badawi's alleged apostasy.[1]

Following Badawi's 2012 arrest, Amnesty International designated him a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression". A spokesman for the group stated that, "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".[7] Human Rights Watch called for the government to drop the charges, stating, "The charges against him, based solely to Badawi's involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression".[1]

Badawi appeared before a district court in Jeddah on 17 December 2012 charged with "setting up a website that undermines general security", "ridiculing Islamic religious figures", and "going beyond the realm of obedience".[2] That judge referred Badawi to a higher court for the charge of apostasy declaring that he "could not give a verdict in a case of apostasy."[8] On 22 December, the General Court in Jeddah decided to proceed with the apostasy case.[2] The higher court refused to hear the case and referred it back to the lower court.[9]

On July 30, 2013 Saudi media reported that Raif Badawi had been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an Internet forum that "violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought". The court also ordered the website closed.[10]

On December 26, 2013 Badawi's wife told CNN that a judge had recommended him to go before a high court for the apostasy charge which would result in a death penalty if convicted.[11] On May 7, 2014 Badawi was re-sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison. He also received a fine of 1 million riyal (equal to about $267,000).[12]

Badawi's lawyer Waleed Abulkhair has been jailed after setting up Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a human rights organization. He is being charged for "setting up an unlicensed organization” and for “breaking allegiance with the ruler”. His requests to license the organization were denied.[13]

Badawi has stated that he was a Muslim but "everyone has a choice to believe or not believe."[14]

According to Human Rights Watch in its review of Saudi Arabia's membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, "Over the last year Saudi authorities have harassed, investigated, prosecuted, and jailed prominent peaceful dissidents and human rights activists on vague charges based solely on their peaceful practice of basic rights, particularly the right to free expression, including Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammed al-Bajadi, Abd al-Kareem al-Khodr, Omar al-Saeed, and Raif Badawi."[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Saudi Arabia: Website Editor Facing Death Penalty Encouraged Peaceful Religious Discussion". State News Service  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 22 December 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c PEN International/IFEX (11 January 2013). "Prominent Saudi writer’s safety at risk after arrest". The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Angus McDowall (22 December 2012). "Saudi website editor could face death for apostasy-rights group". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Saudi Arabian Blogger Could Face Death Penalty". Sky News. 23 December 2012. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  5. ^ Brian Whitaker (26 December 2013). "Saudi activist faces new execution threat". al-bab.com. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Travel ban against blogger Mr Raif Badawi for criticising religious police". Front Line Defenders. 8 December 2009. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Saudi Arabia uses capital offence of 'apostasy' to stifle debate". Amnesty International. 24 December 2012. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Saudi rights activist faces apostasy charge". Middle East Online. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Raif Badawi: Court refuses to charge Saudi blogger
  10. ^ (Reuters via New York Daily News)
  11. ^ (CNN)
  12. ^ Jamjoom, Mohammed (May 7, 2014). "Saudi activist sentenced to 10 years, 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam". CNN International. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "Waleed Abu al-Khair: Rights Defender On Trial". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Lash and jail for Saudi web activist Raef Badawi". BBC. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2014. "Lawyer Waleed Abu Alkhair told the BBC that Mr Badawi, a father of three, had confirmed in court that he was a Muslim but told the judge "everyone has a choice to believe or not believe."" 
  15. ^ Jeremy Corbyn (2014-09-19). "Keeping oppression in plain view". Morning Star. 
  16. ^ "UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of the UPR Outcome of Saudi Arabia: Delivered Under Item 6 - HRC 25". Human Rights Watch. 2014-03-19.