Saudi Arabia Blogger Narrowly Escapes Death Penalty

Dennis Faas's picture

A court in Saudi Arabia has refused to try a blogger charged with insulting the Islamic religion. Raif Badawi would have faced the death penalty if convicted of his alleged "crimes," which included the simple act of "liking" a Christianity page on Facebook.

Badawi runs a website called the "Liberal Saudi Network." He was arrested last year after proclaiming May 7 as a day for discussing social and religious matters.

Badawi Charged for Allegedly Abandoning Islam

A lower court originally concluded Badawi's offenses were so serious that his case should be passed on to a higher court, where he should face charges of apostasy, the 'crime' of renouncing or abandoning one's religion.

It's a charge applied in Middle Eastern and North African countries in which the official religion is Islam. Those found guilty of apostasy can be sentenced to death.

The United Nations, however, argues that such laws violate the human right to freedom of religion. Critics of the action against Badawi say he was arrested and threatened with execution at least partly to keep others from discussing religious issues online.

Prosecutors Accuse Badawi of 'Illegal Sarcasm'

During Badawi's trial, prosecutors produced evidence that Badawi wrote about Valentine's Day -- which is banned in Saudi Arabia -- and also that he had clicked the "Like" button on a Facebook page intended for Arab Christians.

Badawi was also charged with blogging about a sacrosanct government department. He reportedly blogged "Congratulations to us for the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue for teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure that all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise."

Prosecutors argued it was clear Badawi meant this sarcastically and thus he intended to mock the commission. (Source:

However, the higher court hearing this evidence was not convinced Badawi was guilty of apostasy and dismissed that charge. There is no official word yet as to why the higher court made this decision. Some observers suspect Saudi officials were influenced by criticisms of the case from around the world. (Source:

Rate this article: 
No votes yet