Saudi Arabia will begin punishing Raif Badawi Friday, a blogger and activist convicted of “insulting Islam.” His punishment includes 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a million-riyal fine, equivalent to over $250,000.
The punishment will begin just two days after 12 people were murdered in an Islamic terrorist attack in France over “blasphemous” treatment of Islam and its prophet, Muhammad. (RELATED: This Is Why Jihadis Massacred Writers And Cartoonists At A French Humor Magazine)
The government-run Saudi Press Agency released a statement in response to the terrorist attack on Wednesday, saying the Kingdom “condemns and strongly repudiates this cowardly terrorist act, which pure Islamic religion rejects.” Apparently, however, 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and massive fine is fair game.
The sentence will start with 50 strokes after Friday prayers at the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah, and continue for the next 50 Fridays.
Badawi was arrested in 2012 after setting up an online forum for open political discussion, and publishing remarks critical of senior Saudi religious figures, which were construed as “insulting Islam.” A previous apostasy charge — which carries an automatic death sentence in Saudi Arabia — had been dropped.
Michael De Dora, a representative of secular activist organization Center for Inquiry, told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “Make no mistake: this is one part of an all-out effort to stamp out all forms of dissent in Saudi Arabia. No one there is safe.”
The country has seen numerous other cases against religious dissenters in recent years, including journalist Hamza Kashgari’s 2012 imprisonment and exile for three tweets which portrayed Muhammad as an ordinary human, saying, “I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do.”
In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki called the punishment “inhumane,” asking “Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case.” She said the U.S. “strongly opposes laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of [religious] freedoms.”
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