Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Saudi Arabia: Writer Faces Apostasy Trial

Malaysia, in Extraditing Hamza Kashgari, Shows Disregard for International Norms

Human Rights Watch
February 13, 2012

"(New York) – Saudi authorities should free Hamza Kashgari and drop any charges against him based on comments he made on Twitter expressing his personal religious views, Human Rights Watch said today. On the morning of February 12, 2012, Malaysian authorities deported Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia to face charges of apostasy there, hours before lawyers obtained a Malaysian High Court injunction against his deportation.

Saudi Arabia’s highest official clerics have declared Kashgari guilty of apostasy based on his now-deleted tweets and called for him to be put to death.

Malaysia had no business deporting Kashgari, and Saudi has no business prosecuting him for his tweets expressing his religious opinion, which it is his right to do freely,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It is near certain he will not get a fair trial in Saudi Arabia, where religious scholars have concluded that he is guilty of apostasy and should be put to death.”

Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia, on February 6, to Malaysia, following popular outrage and calls for his punishment after he published a number of tweets expressing his religious views, which he has since deleted. Human Rights Watch has reviewed the alleged tweets and not found any language that could incite violence. The 23-year-old journalist, who wrote for Al-Bilad daily newspaper, has expressed regret for the tweets, saying he had no idea they would elicit such a strong negative reaction.

Kashgari was preparing to seek political asylum in New Zealand in light of the likely death sentence he faces in Saudi Arabia for expressing his religious views. Saudi Arabia immediately sought his extradition from Malaysia, though the countries do not have a bilateral extradition treaty......"

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