Saudi judge seeks death penalty for activist

Saudi judge seeks death penalty for activist
Fri Dec 27, 2013 08:47:19

A Saudi judge has recommended that a liberal activist be tried in a higher court for apostasy, a charge that could carry the death penalty, rights campaigners say.

A court in the medieval-styled kingdom sentenced Raef Badawi in July to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for setting up a "liberal" network and for allegedly insulting Islam.

On Wednesday, a judge remanded Badawi to the General Court on charges of apostasy, rights lawyer Waleed Abulkhair told AFP.

After Badawi's sentence, the appeals court had sent the case back to the court of first instance, where a newly-appointed judge remanded it to the General Court, saying his lower court was not qualified to deal with the case, Abulkhair explained.

Human rights activists said, however, that the apostasy charge was only a recommendation from the judge and not a decision.

But online news website quoted Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar as saying that "the new judge has requested the case be referred to General Court, and demanded the death penalty."

Badawi, 35, was arrested in June last year in the Red Sea city of Jeddah for unknown reasons.

The network that he co-founded with female rights activist Suad al-Shammari had declared May 7, 2012 a "day of liberalism" in the kingdom, calling for an end to the domination of Sharia law over public life in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's medieval interpretation of sharia stipulates death as a punishment for apostasy, but defendants are sometimes given the chance to repent and escape being beheaded.


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