Target: Abdullah al Humaid, King of Saudi Arabia
Goal: Drop charges against free-speech activist
Raif Badawi was recently sentenced to ten years in prison, a million riyal fine, and a thousand lashings for hosting a website where free political discourse could occur. After originally being sentenced to seven years, a judge ordered a retrial and increased the sentence by three years. Badawi is charged with cyber crime and parental disobedience, narrowly escaping a charge of apostasy, which is punishable by a death sentence.
Badawi was the co-founder of the Liberal Saudi Network, an alternative media source that began publishing liberal viewpoints in 2008. Saudi authorities quickly became worried about his efforts to promote political and religious dialogue, and began harassment and surveillance soon after. The site was shut down in 2012 and the operators arrested for publishing stories deemed disrespectful toward politicians as well as insulting to religion and morality.
During his time as an activist, Badawi was barred from leaving the country and had his assets frozen, denying him any way to make a living. Several other bloggers and journalists have reported similar hurdles when publicizing viewpoints that clash with the Saudi government’s more old-fashioned, religious, and highly conservative views. Many have been put to death, tortured, or imprisoned for life simply for being a member of the alternative media.
For a country that has publicly pledged to adopt a more liberal attitude toward free speech, Saudi Arabia has shown few signs of progress. Several bloggers, journalists, and social media users are being sentenced to prison or worse for simply speaking their opinions. Your signature will demand the release of Raif Badawi, and urge the Saudi government to make meaningful steps toward increasing protections for free speech.
Dear King al Humaid,
Reccently, Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, a hefty fine, as well as a thousand lashings for what the court has called insulting to religion and morality. Badawi’s only crime was founding a website where Saudi citizens could anonymously discuss the current state of government and religion. After serving one and a half years out of a seven year sentence, he was re-tried and sentenced to another ten years imprisonment.
Badawi was imprisoned solely for expressing his opinions and providing a platform for others to do the same. By imprisoning him for this, Saudi Arabia is going against its promise to protect freedom of speech and expression for the country’s citizens. I demand that an end be put to Mr. Badawi’s arbitrary detention, and that he is released immediately without charge. I also ask that Saudi Arabia make meaningful progress to creating an environment where free speech can thrive.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Author Unknown via Wikimedia Commons