Deported Saudi columnist may face death penalty

February 14, 2012

Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi Arabian newspaper columnist, was recently extradited from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, where he had been arrested while trying to flee to New Zealand.

An arrest warrant was issued in Saudi Arabia after Kashgari posted three twitter comments deemed to be insulting to the prophet Mohammed. Kashgari fled the country.

The three mild posts included lines such as: "I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you."

Under Saudi Arabian law this is considered "blasphemy’", a crime potentially punishable by death.

The Malaysian government detained Kashgari as he tried to pass through the country. It handed him over to Saudi officials on February 12.

A lawyer hired by Kashgari’s family, Muhammad Afiq Mohamad Nor, said the decision was unlawful because he had obtained a court order to block the deportation.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounced the deportation of Kashgari to Saudi Arabia, where many clerics are calling for the death penalty to be applied.

Kashgari said that he was being made a "scapegoat for a larger conflict" over his comments. Saudi Arabia has faced a wave of political repression that has swept the country since the Arab Spring uprisings began last year.

It is not known yet when Kashgari will face trial or what sentence the prosecution will seek.

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