Activist who called for an end to religious influence in Saudi is sentenced to jail and lashes

A SEVEN-YEAR jail sentence has reportedly been imposed Rael Badawi, 35, founder of the Saudi Liberal Network website.

Badawi was arrested last year after the network declared May 7 a “day of liberalism” in the Muslim kingdom, and demanded an end to the influence of religion on public life in Saudi Arabia.

Raef Badawi

Raef Badawi

A conference which was to be held in Jeddah for the occasion was off after the organisers said they had been “advised” by authorities not to go ahead.

Badawi was brought to court last December to face a charge of apostasy, but the case was referred to a higher court which, according to this report, found him guilty of lesser charges of criticising the religious police, as well as calling for “religious liberalisation”.

He was sentenced to seven years and 600 lashes, and his website was ordered to be closed down.

Had he been convicted of apostasy, he might have received the death sentence, as sharia law – strictly applied in Saudi Arabia – stipulates death as a punishment for this “crime”. However defendants are usually given the chance to repent and escape being beheaded.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn