24 December 2012
"A court in Saudi Arabia has decided to proceed with the prosecution of an online activist for apostasy, a charge which carries the death penalty, in what Amnesty International said is a new bid to stifle political and social debate.
On 22 December the General Court in Jeddah had Raif Badawi, 25, sign documents to enable his trial on apostasy charges to go ahead, after his case was passed to it by a District Court on 17 December.
Badawi – who founded “Saudi Arabian Liberals”, a website for political and social debate – has been in detention since June 2012 on charges including “setting up a website that undermines general security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures.
Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
“Even in Saudi Arabia where state repression is rife, it is beyond the pale to seek the death penalty for an activist whose only ‘crime’ was to enable social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty Internationals Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Raif Badawi’s trial for ‘apostasy’ is a clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives. He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”......"