The lawyer representing a Saudi Arabian online journalist who was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and 600 lashes for “insulting Islam” said he is not optimistic about how successful appealing the verdict will be.
Raif Badawi, who started the "Free Saudi Liberals" website to discuss the role of religion in the kingdom, was arrested in June 2012 and was sentenced by a Jeddah court lat month.
The blogger was sentenced to five years for “insulting Islam” and two more for insulting the Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
A further three months was also added for “parental disobedience” after Badawi’s father went on TV to condemn his son’s website.
A leading cleric, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al Barrak, hit out at Badawi after he wrote on the website that “Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists are all equal”, according to the Bloomberg news agency.
While Badawi's website included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as the Grand Mufti, according to Human Rights Watch, he claimed he never meant to insult Islam and only sought to provide a forum for open debate.
He has until September 6 to lodge an appeal but Waleed Abu Al Khair, a Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer handling his case, was pessimistic an appeal would change anything.
“We don’t believe they will change,” Al Khair was quoted as saying. “We hope they will look at the pressure from the outside regarding dialogue among religions... To be honest with you, the majority of people here believe he should be punished for being a liberal.”
The 600 lashes will be administered in groups of 150, with Badawi allowed to be hospitalised and given a break in between.
Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar said he was “extremely depressed at the judgement” but was “pretty resilient”.
“The Saudis would love him to apologise and show him mercy. But he stands by his beliefs. He won’t back down,” she was quoted as saying.
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