Saudi Arabia: 10 years, 2000 lashes for atheist
A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing atheist ideology on social media. The 28-year-old man admitted to being an atheist and refused to repent, saying that what he wrote reflected his own beliefs and that he had the right to express them. The court also fined him 20,000 riyals.
Disbelief in God is a capital offense in Saudi Arabia. Traditionally, influential conservative clerics have used the label 'atheist' to crackdown on dissent and opposition to the country's strict Wahhabi culture.
Saudi activist Raif Badawi was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 800 lashes by a Saudi court for "insulting Islam". A Jeddah Criminal Court found Badawi, guilty of insulting Islam through his website and in television comments. He appealed his sentence, but it was rejected in 2013 He was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes.
Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi poet was imprisoned for two years without trial after Saudi officials found his tweets to be "anti-islamic" and "insulting" to the Prophet Mohammed. When information about his imminent arrest was released, Kashgari fled to Malaysia from where he was extradited to Saudi and imprisoned in Feb'12. He was finally released after 20 months in Oct'13 after a lengthy legal battle.
Saudi Arabia introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. King Abdullah also issued Royal Decree 44, which criminalises "participating in hostilities outside the kingdom" with prison sentences of between three and 20 years. The law defined terrorism as "calling for atheist thought in any form," and also equated peaceful protesters to terrorists.
Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinian artist and a poet who has been active in the Saudi art scene for over 10 years. In 2013, after an argument at a soccer game, Fayadh was detained by Saudi's religious police for promoting atheism and released on bail. He was re-arrested and tried in 2014 and was sentenced to death for professing atheism.
A Saudi court ruled that instead of beheading Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, he will now face flogging and eight years in prison. The change in sentencing came after an appeal filed by Fayadh's lawyer argued that Fayadh had been denied a fair trial and was convicted based on questionable testimony. The court however, maintains Fayadh's guilt and also seeks a public apology from him.
Fayadh's book of poetry, titled Instructions Within and his tweets and other social media posts on poetry were used as evidence against him in the case by Saudi officials.