Saudi court jails Yemeni man for 15 years for apostasy, HRW says


Originally posted to the Reuters website on December 20th

LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) – A Yemeni man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Saudi Arabia for promoting “apostasy, unbelief and atheism” online, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

Ali Abu Luhum was tried in October over comments made on two anonymous Twitter accounts, the New York-based campaign group said. He is appealing against the sentence, it added.

Saudi Arabia’s government media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. There have been no mentions of the case in Saudi media outlets.

The 38-year-old was arrested by Saudi authorities in August, and told his family that his social media activities formed the basis of his arrest, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

According to the HRW report, Abu Luhum made a confession but later retracted it, saying it had been made under coercion.

The rights group said court documents showed Saudi prosecutors had argued that the anonymous Twitter accounts were registered with phone numbers linked to Abu Luhum.

Charges mentioned in the documents included “denial of the existence of God; impersonating, doubting and mocking God, Islam (and) the Prophet Muhammad; promoting atheism; and publishing and promoting that which prejudices public order, religious values, and public morals on social media,” HRW said.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, follows a strict Wahhabi school of Sunni Muslim belief, although efforts to moderate religious discourse and practice have gathered pace in recent years under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seeking to bolster foreign investment.

Under the Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law, apostasy requires the death penalty, which prosecutors originally asked for.

This was later revised down by the judge, following the retraction of the confession, HRW said.

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