[JURIST] A Saudi court on Sunday upheld blogger Raif Badawi’s sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” The blogger ran The Liberal Saudi Network for 4 years before being arrested by Saudi authorities. Badawi was originally charged [BBC report] with insulting Islam for co-founding the religious discussion website Free Saudi Liberals. He was detained in June 2012, and his case was referred to the Public Court of Jeddah in December with a recommendation to try him for the crime of apostasy. Shariah-based Saudi law is not codified and judges do not follow a system of precedent, however apostasy is a capital offense which can be punishable by death. The blogger received his first 50 lashes in January, but floggings have been delayed since, for reasons that have not been made public. A medical report shows that he was not fit for punishment. Saudi Arabia uses a strict form of Islamic law which does not tolerate political dissent.
Saudi Arabia’s justice system has drawn international criticism for perceived human rights abuses in recent years. In January 2015, a Saudi judge sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair to an additional five years in jail [JURIST report] after he refused to show remorse for “showing disrespect” to authorities and creating an unauthorized association. In December 2014, a Saudi court ordered [JURIST report] the criminal cases against two women’s rights activists be transferred to a special tribunal for terrorism. The women were arrested for attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the UAE. In October a Saudi Arabia Court sentenced three lawyers to between five and eight years in prison for criticizing the justice system [JURIST report] on Twitter by accusing authorities of carrying out arbitrary detentions. Earlier that month Amnesty International issued a report claiming that Saudi Arabia persecutes rights activists and silences government critics [JURIST report], especially in the years since the Arab Spring in 2011. Saudi Arabia has also faced sharp criticism for its high number of executions. In September two experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Saudi Arabia to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] following an increase in executions, with a significant number of the executions completed by beheading. In July then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, expressed deep concern over the harsh sentences and detention of peaceful human rights advocates [JURIST report] in Saudi Arabia in recent months. In February 2014 JURIST Guest Columnist Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch argued that a new Saudi Arabian terrorism law was a vague, catch-all document [JURIST op-ed] that can—and probably will—be used to prosecute or jail anyone who criticizes the Saudi government and to violate their due process rights along the way.