Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who in July was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for insulting Islam is now expected to face the high court in the strict Islamic kingdom on a charge of apostasy, his wife has told CNN.
Ensaf Haidar said that a Saudi judge recommended that her husband appear before a high court for apostasy, or denying Islam, a charge that carries the death penalty if a conviction results, according to Amnesty International.
As TheBlaze reported in July, Badawi founded the online forum Free Saudi Liberals in 2008 and was later accused of violating Islamic values and propagating liberal thought by encouraging users to voice their opinions on the role on religion in Saudi Arabia.
Besides the seven year imprisonment and the 600 lashes, the criminal court in Jeddah this summer added an additional three months to Badawi’s prison sentence for “parental disobedience” which is also a crime in Saudi Arabia.
Before hearing his sentence in July, Badawi had already been held in custody for a year “on charges of cybercrime and disobeying his father,” Reuters reported then.
CNN’s latest report of a higher court now re-hearing the case marks a turnaround from July, when the Jeddah judge who handed down the lashing and prison sentence dropped the charge of apostasy after Badawi proclaimed to the court his devotion to Islam, Al Wattan reported then.
CNN quoted a statement from Amnesty International which said that this “is [a] clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives.”
“This incredibly harsh sentence for a peaceful blogger makes a mockery of Saudi Arabia’s claims that it supports reform and religious dialogue,” Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said in July. “
The judge in Jeddah also ordered Badawi’s website be shut down.
Badawi’s family has moved to Lebanon. Because of Badawi’s ordeal, his wife believes it would be impossible to move back with her three children to Saudi Arabia.
CNN reported that it could not reach Saudi government officials for comment.