Saudi Government Imposes Sentence of 1,000 Lashes Against Activist Blogger

Originally published on January 11, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Fearing a resurgence of the 2011 Arab Spring upheaval, the government of Saudi Arabia began a series of 1,000 public lashings against an activist blogger for expressing freedom of speech and religion. Sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Islam, Raif Badawi must endure 50 lashes a week for 20 weeks and pay a fine of one million riyals (approximately $266,600). Although Saudi Arabia publicly condemned the recent attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Saudi secret police regularly collude with the NSA to commit human rights abuses against activists and bloggers.

According to an eyewitness account, Badawi exited a police van in front of al-Jafali mosque in the coastal city of Jeddah just after midday on Friday. Escorted by eight or nine officers, Badawi stood in the middle of the crowded square handcuffed and shackled. An officer beat Badawi’s back and legs 50 times with a large cane. Badawi remained silent as his face contorted with anguish. After the flogging ended, the officers escorted Badawi back to the van and returned him to prison.

Detained since June 17, 2012, Badawi had initially been charged with apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed the charge. Accused of cybercrime and disobeying his father, Badawi was convicted of insulting Islam on a liberal online forum that he had created. The Saudi government shut down Badawi’s website and originally sentenced him to seven years and 600 lashes on July 29, 2013.

After reviewing an appeal on May 7, 2014, a judge extended Badawi’s sentence to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a ban from using the internet, and a fine of one million riyals. Following his arrest, Badawi’s wife fled the country with their children and moved to Canada. In July, Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abul-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison and barred from travelling for another 15 years after being convicted of inciting public opinion, insulting the judiciary, and undermining the regime and officials.

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23 Egyptian Activists Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Protesting

Originally published on October 27, 2014, at NationofChange.org

An Egyptian court sentenced 23 young activists to three years in prison for protesting without a government permit on Sunday. Following the political turbulence of the Arab Spring and the downfall of President Morsi, Egypt has been aggressively prosecuting anyone caught practicing free speech or peaceful assembly in an attempt to silence dissent. Although the U.S. State Department has publicly condemned the court’s decision, President Obama continues to fund the new Egyptian government and its military.

On June 21, activists marched towards the presidential palace in Cairo protesting against Egypt’s draconian anti-protest law and the repeated incarceration of political blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, along with others. As they marched to the palace, the activists were attacked by several groups of men wearing civilian clothes. As security forces dispersed the crowd, they arrested 24 young activists including a child named Islam Tawfik Mohamed Hassan who faces trial in a juvenile court according to Amnesty International.

While buying water from a kiosk, Yara Sallam and her cousin were arrested along with the protesters. According to witnesses, Sallam and her cousin had not been participating in the demonstration. The following day, security forces released Sallam’s cousin, but kept Sallam in custody after discovering her occupation as a lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. She has been convicted along with the protesters and sentenced to three years in prison. Amnesty International considers Sallam a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately.

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