Raif Badawi should look on the bright side: His punishment could have been worse.
Still the Saudi man’s sentence, which begins today — 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and a fine of 1 million riyal, equivalent to over $250,000 — is pretty severe, especially considering his “crime.” He was convicted of “insulting Islam.”
The sentence will start with 50 strokes after Friday prayers at the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah, and continue for the next 50 Fridays.
Badawi, a blogger and activist, was arrested in 2012 after setting up an online forum for open political discussion and publishing remarks critical of senior Saudi religious figures, which were construed as “insulting Islam.” A previous apostasy charge — which carries an automatic death sentence in Saudi Arabia — had been dropped.
Michael De Dora, a representative of secular activist organization Center for Inquiry, told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “Make no mistake: this is one part of an all-out effort to stamp out all forms of dissent in Saudi Arabia. No one there is safe.”
The country has seen numerous other cases against religious dissenters in recent years, including journalist Hamza Kashgari’s 2012 imprisonment and exile for three tweets which portrayed Muhammad as an ordinary human, saying, “I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do.”
In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki called the punishment “inhumane,” asking “Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case.” She said the U.S. “strongly opposes laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of [religious] freedoms.”
This report, by Ivan Plis, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.