Lash and jail for Saudi web activist Raef Badawi
- 30 July 2013
- From the section Middle East
A Saudi online activist has been jailed for seven years and sentenced to 600 lashes for urging religious liberalisation, his lawyer has said.
The activist, Raef Badawi, co-founded the Free Saudi Liberals website, an online forum for public debate.
He was arrested last year and convicted on Monday of setting up a website that undermined general security.
Amnesty International considers Mr Badawi a political prisoner and has called for his immediate release.
Mr Badawi was originally charged with apostasy, or abandonment of religion, a crime in Saudi Arabia that carries with it the death penalty.
Lawyer Waleed Abu Alkhair told the BBC that Mr Badawi, a father of three, had confirmed in court that he was a Muslim but told the judge "everyone has a choice to believe or not believe."
He was convicted of the charges of setting up a website that undermines general security and of ridiculing religious figures.
The judge ordered that the 600 lashes be administered 150 at a time.
Mr Alkhair said the charges were over comments the activist posted calling for a relaxation of Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islam.
The lawyer said the sentence was unduly harsh.
"The lashes could be spread out but in Sharia this is a sign that the judge wants to insult him," he said.
His lawyer said he will appeal against the decision.