The decadent judicial system in Saudi Arabia has once again come under criticism. Raef Badawi, an Arabian blogger has been recommended to be tried before a high court on charge of apostasy. If proved guilty by the obsolete judicial system, such accused persons are liable to be executed. Blasphemy carries death penalty under their interpretation of Sharia law.
Raaif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian liberal is co-founder of a website, ‘Free Saudi Liberals’. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known for all sorts of Human Rights abuses. Opposition leaders, enthusiasts for reform and human rights activists face trials under fake charges. There are reports that more than 70% of the people can be considered as dissenters; but charges of blasphemy and apostasy which attract death penalty keep people tongue-tied from expressing their views in public. Mohamed Al-Saif observes that the ‘liberal’ movement has emerged during the last two decades. He says,
“So what we are really witnessing here is a growing Saudi social and civil movement seeking to modernize society and promote civic values. The fact is that Saudi liberals are only a small faction of this movement.”
According to the above report dated 10- 5- 2012, the group of young Saudi activists decided to celebrate Saudi Liberal Day on 7th May every year. They wanted to work as a modernizing agency in the Saudi society. “Saudi activist Souad Al-Shammary, presents herself as the secretary general of the Saudi Liberal Network.”
All such attempts get thwarted under the repressive regime. See for example, the following links:
We are told that ‘ Tuwaa’ and ‘Dar al-Nadwa’ were shut down by the government. The reform movement had kept on sending the King its proposals in the form of petitions. King Abdulla allowed some persons to meet him. Some of them were arrested on ‘contested and fabricated’ accusations. The ‘mabahith’(secret Police) arbitrarily arrest former judge, advocates, medical doctors etc. who are detained in unknown locations on dubious charges without any regard to rule of law- even Saudi Code of Criminal Procedure. The kingdom has always been afraid of civil participation.
“ On April 12, 2006, Musa al-Qarni, another of those arrested this month, was among four men who petitioned King Abdullah for permission to open an Islamic Civil Society organization with the aim of discussing “freedom, justice, equality, citizenship, pluralism, [proper] advice, and the role of women.” Neither the king’s office nor any other government agency ever replied.”
Critics of government are not allowed to leave the country. Professors lose positions in University. Rights activists and journalists get instructions not to write or publish.
The attack on cultural and creative activities is equally deplorable. Turki al-Hamad (58) is a novelist. Perhaps he is much more outspoken. Angelo Young in an article on 25-12-2012 says,
“Novelist Turki al-Hamad, 58, one of Saudi Arabia’s more unapologetic and outspoken liberal voices, is now in custody for a series of posts he published on his Twitter last weekend comparing fundamentalist Islamist ideology and its strict social controls to Nazism and suggesting that political Islamists like those allied with Saudi Arabia’s royal family have taken their adulation of Prophet Muhammad too far.”
The Time article, ‘Triumphant Trilogy’ on 01-09-2005 by Malu Halasa sheds light on the approach of the government on publication of his novels: Adama(1998), Shumaisi and Karadib(2000). In 1999, Crown Prince Abdullah had offered him body guards for protection. The religious clerics went on with their fatwas and death threats. Now he is in custody for his tweets and the crown prince who protected him earlier is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques His Royal Highness King Abdullah Ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Saud.
Raaif Badawi was arrested in June 2012 for insulting Islam and disobedience. Sebastian Usher , Arab affairs editor of BBC News says that though the court had the power to sentence him to death if found guilty, ‘ it refused to charge him, referring his case back to a lower court’.
Ameera Al Hussaini of Global Voices reported that his lawyer Waleed Abu Alkhair said that the apostasy case against him had been dismissed and that it was not proven to the judges that the accused had insulted God or the Prophet.
Ahmed Al Omran of Riyad Bureau quotes Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North African program:
“Raif Badawi’s trial for ‘apostasy’ is a clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates.”
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Hail Arabian Renaissance!