Raif Badawi, a blogger in Saudi Arabia who was originally given a seven year jail sentence in July, has been sentenced to death.
Badawi was found guilty of insulting Islam through his website and in comments he made while appearing on television. His lawyer then appealed the sentence, which also included 600 lashes.
But a high court has now found him guilty of apostasy, or “Abandonment of one’s religious faith, a political party, one’s principles, or a cause.”
His wife Ensaf Haidar told CNN about the new death sentence.
“It is an emotion I cannot describe. I never imagined this would happen,” she said. “I thought maybe they would reduce the sentence but this is unimaginable. The whole thing is about a website.”
Badawi has been in jail since June 17, 2012, according to rights group Amnesty International, which has advocated for his release.
“The charges against Raif Badawi relate to a number of articles he has written, including one about Valentine’s Day – the celebration of which is prohibited in Saudi Arabia,” the group said last year. “He was accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (also known as the religious police) in the conclusion of his article. The charges against him also mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website, including one insinuating that the al-Imam Mohamed ibn Saud University had become ‘a den for terrorists.'”
The group said that in January the general court said that they did not have jurisdiction to review his case and that they had found that he had not insulted Islam and therefore it did not amount to an ‘apostasy’ charge. The general prosecutor ,however, continued insisting that Raif Badawi be tried for apostasy.
Amnesty International considers Raif Badawi to be a prisoner of conscience, and have called on the general public to call on Saudi Arabia authorities for his release.