Last year, 30-year-old Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was punished for starting a progressive website that called for, among other things, religious tolerance and women’s rights. That was insulting to Islam, said his critics. He was sentenced at the time to seven years in prison and 600 lashes.
His sentence was overturned… but that respite was brief. In May, Badawi was given an even harsher punishment:
… the Criminal Court has sentenced Badawi to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine (USD $266,631).
His lawyers appealed the ruling, but we learned this week that the decision was upheld. Great justice system they have in Saudi Arabia…Michael De Dora of the Center For Inquiry explains what will happen now:
This means Badawi’s sentence is final, and that Saudi officials could begin to impose lashes on Badawi within several weeks. According to the final decision, Badawi will receive 50 lashes per session, with a break of no less than a week between sessions. The lashings will be carried out in public after Friday prayers in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.
Amnesty International offers contact information for Saudi leaders you can write to in order to voice your dissent. It’ll likely fall on deaf ears — I mean, how serious can you take a “Human Rights Commission” in a country that punishes atheists for expressing their opinions? — but there doesn’t seem to be any other way to help Badawi right now.
Still, we can share his story. If this doesn’t get you worked up about the discrimination faced by atheists and religious minorities in theocracies like Saudi Arabia, nothing will.
(Portions of this article were posted earlier)