Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari has been freed from prison after 20 months for the “crime” of uttering things on Twitter that offended the appallingly oversensitive Muslim clerics and totalitarian police in that country. Unfortunately, he may be at more risk free than he was in prison.
Saudi Arabia freed a young blogger from 20 months in prison after he enraged religious conservatives with tweets ruminating on the human side of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, a case that epitomized the determination of Gulf monarchies to contain Arabs’ newfound freedom of expression on social media.
Shortly after dawn Tuesday, 24-year-old Hamza Kashgari walked out of Thahban prison near Jeddah, known for holding religious extremists and political activists.
You may recall that Kashgari fled to Malaysia when he found that he was facing arrest and possibly even death in Saudi Arabia and was extradited back to that country to face trial. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued this statement:
While Hamza Kashgari’s release is a step in the right direction, he never should have been detained in the first place.
USCIRF urges the Saudi government to take the next step and release online editor Raif Badawi and writer Turki al-Hamad. Badawi was unjustly convicted in July and sentenced to seven years in prison for insulting Islam and al-Hamad has been in detained without charge since December 2012 after reportedly publishing a series of tweets calling for the reform of Islamist teachings.
USCIRF further urges the Saudi government to end state prosecution of individuals charged with blasphemy and apostasy. Laws that punish expression deemed blasphemous, defamatory, or insulting to religion are incompatible with international human rights standards and exacerbate religious intolerance, discrimination and violence.”