Death sentence for apostasy marks a new test case for Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as its most powerful rising prince visits Downing Street.
“In the video he cursed God, Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and his daughter Fatimah and ripped a copy of the Holy Qur’an and hit it with a shoe,” the Saudi Gazette quoted an official as saying. “The death sentence was issued after his apostasy was proved.”
The man in this case has the right to appeal, and can also avoid the penalty by repenting.
However, the timing is embarrassing, on the eve of Prince Mohammed’s visit to London and shortly after a visit to the country by the Prince of Wales, who met the new King Salman as well as Crown Prince Muqrin and Prince Mohammed.
The Prince of Wales raised the Badawi case with the king, an intervention which may have had some effect. Mr Badawi received the first 50 of his lashes last month, to worldwide outcry, but has yet to receive any more, with Saudi officials hinting it had been put on permanent hold.
However, human rights groups still fear that Prince Mohammed’s rise to power – he is now likely to be the first of his generation to become king – will herald a hardening of Saudi Arabia’s position on internal reform.
As interior minister he has overseen a widespread crackdown not only on jihadis – which has been welcomed by the West – but also on liberal activists and campaigners for political and women’s rights reforms.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef
Amnesty International accused the government of “wearing a muzzle” when it came to dealing with Saudi Arabia.
“With the deputy crown prince’s visit UK officials should try to exert some real pressure on him over Saudi Arabia’s disgraceful human rights record,” said Allan Hogarth, its head of policy and government affairs.
“Under the new ruler King Salman, public executions have continued apace, while the free speech activist Raif Badawi remains in jail and is still at risk of being flogged.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We have consistently raised concerns that we have and will continue to do so at every level because no issues are off the table.”
The UK Telegraph