The Volokh Conspiracy

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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi flogged and jailed for 'insulting Islam'


BBC News reports:

A Saudi Arabian blogger has been publicly flogged after being convicted of cybercrime and insulting Islam, reports say.

Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail, was flogged 50 times. The flogging will be carried out weekly, campaigners say.

Mr Badawi, the co-founder of a now banned website called the Liberal Saudi Network, was arrested in 2012….

Unfortunately, none of the news stories I've seen on this reported exactly what speech was found to be punishable; if any of our readers can point me to a translation of the exact statements, or even a credible summary of the statements, I'd be much obliged. The best I could find were these two items:

1. This summary from Amnesty International:

The charges against Raif Badawi relate to a number of articles he has written, including one about Valentine's Day—the celebration of which is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. He was accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia's Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (also known as the religious police) in the conclusion of his article. The charges against him also mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website, including one insinuating that the al-Imam Mohamed ibn Saud University had become "a den for terrorists".

2. This passage from a Human Rights Watch report, though it's not clear whether it's the same thing that the court relied on:

On March 18, 2012, the well-known cleric Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Barrak issued a religious ruling declaring Badawi an "unbeliever … and apostate who must be tried and sentenced according to what his words require." Al-Barrak claimed that Badawi had said "that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists are all equal," and that even if these were not Badawi's own opinions but "an account of the words of others, this is not allowed unless accompanied by a repudiation" of such words.

UPDATE: Reader George Conn comments on Facebook,

Who knew the Sharia authorities in Saudi Arabia would be so lenient compared to the ones in France?