A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced Raif Badawi — founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website — to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,630) on Wednesday, May 7.
Badawi was originally sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes in July of last year, but an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial. He was arrested in June 2012 and charged with cyber crime and "parental disobedience" in relation to his website, which has been shut down since his first trial.
Badawi started the website in 2008 as a platform to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia. The forum often included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as Saudi Arabia's grand mufti. The Criminal Court found him guilty of insulting Islam and Saudi Arabia's religious police through the website and in comments he made on television, according to Human Rights Watch. He was also found guilty of "parental disobedience" because of numerous public confrontations with his father over the years.
The prosecution had demanded that Badawi be tried for apostasy (abandonment or renunciation of religion by a person), which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but the charges were dismissed by the judge in his original trial.
Badawi can appeal the ruling, but his first lawyer and human rights activist, Waleed Abu al-Khair, is currently in prison on charges of "breaking allegiance with the king," among others. Badawi's last appeal led to the stiffer penalty he was given on Wednesday.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.