Saudi Arabia: stifling religious debate
Raif Badawi, the editor of a web site campaigning for freedom to debate religious issues in the hard line Islamic Gulf state, faces a possible death sentence after his case was moved to a higher court, according to a report in Dubai-based newspaper, Gulf News.
New York-based Human Rights Watch says the charges against the journalist relate solely to his ‘involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures’.
According to the group, a member of the journalist’s family said that at a court hearing last week, the judge prevented Mr Badawi’s lawyer from representing him and demanded that the editor ‘repent to god’. The Human Rights Watch statement goes on to say that the judge told Mr Badawi that he could face the death penalty if he did not repent and renounce his liberal beliefs. When the editor refused, the judge transferred the case to a higher court in the country’s second largest city of Jeddah.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director, Eric Goldstein, said ‘Saudi Arabia needs to stop treating peaceful debate as a capital offence’.