Saudi Arabia: Tweeter may face death penalty

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We're continuing to monitor Hamza Kashgari's case, and hope we'll be able to share news on his case soon.

Hamza Kashgari may be charged with apostasy (giving up one’s religious beliefs) – a crime punishable by death - for remarks he made on Twitter.

To add your name to our appeal letter to the King of Saudi Arabia, text ACTION followed by your full name to 88080*.

Over 14s only. Under 18? So that we can ensure you receive appropriate communications in future, please include your date of birth in the following format: DD/MM/YYYY

He is currently being held in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, after being forcibly returned from Malaysia on 12 February. It’s reported that a state prosecutor in Hamza’s home town of Jeddah has requested permission to file a case against him and has called for others who tweeted in agreement or support of Hamza’s remarks to be prosecuted as well.

Hamza Kashgari’s arrest, detention and potential prosecution for exercising freedom of expression are in violation of his basic human rights. The Saudi authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally, and drop any charges against him. Read background information

To add your name to our appeal letter to the King of Saudi Arabia, text ACTION followed by your full name to 88080*. Over 14s only.

Under 18? So that we can ensure you receive appropriate communications in future, please include your date of birth in the following format: DD/MM/YYYY

What will we do with your name?

We will add your name - but not your phone number - to the below letter, which we’ll fax to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. If you would like to take action after Friday 24 February or prefer not to take action by text, see below for details of where to post or fax your own letter

Your Majesty,

We are writing to you to express our concern for Hamza Kashgari.  We have read that he risks being charged with apostasy, punishable by death, for remarks he posted on Twitter.

Since his forcible return to Saudi Arabia from Malaysia at the beginning of February, he has been held in a detention facility at the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh.

We believe that Hamza Kashgari is a prisoner of conscience arrested solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and that his arrest, detention and possible prosecution are incompatible with basic human rights enshrined in international conventions.

We are writing to you to urge you to revoke the order to arrest Hamza Kashgari and ensure he is released immediately and unconditionally and any prosecution procedure dropped.

Further we ask you to grant him immediate access to a lawyer of his choosing and the right to be assisted by his lawyer including during his questioning.

We thank you for your attention on this matter.  We can be contacted via Amnesty International UK, whose address can be found at the bottom of this page.

Background information

Hamza fled to Malaysia on 6 February amid death threats after some clerics accused him of apostasy for sending tweets which they deemed insulting about the Prophet Mohammed. A day after he left the country, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud ordered the Ministry of Interior to arrest Hamza Kashgari and hold him accountable for the statements he made.

The Malaysian authorities, who did not charge Hamza Kashgari with any recognisable criminal offence, arrested him on 9 February when he went to the airport to fly to New Zealand. They handed him over to the Saudi Arabian authorities in spite of calls from local and international organizations not to forcibly return him to Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, the death penalty is applied for a wide range of offences including for apostasy and sorcery. The criminalisation of apostasy is incompatible with the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although the crime of ‘sorcery’ is not defined it has been used to punish people for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, including the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, belief and expression. In 2011, two people were executed for sorcery.

We have documented cases in Saudi Arabia where people whose comments were deemed contrary to Islam have at times been considered to be tantamount to being an apostate and as such sentenced to death.

Court proceedings in Saudi Arabia fall far short of international standards for fair trial. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception.

Text ACTION followed by your full name to 88080* to add your name to our letter calling for Hamza Kashgari’s release. Over 14s only.

Send your own appeal

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language, and:

  • Urge the King of Saudi Arabia to revoke the order to arrest Hamza Kashgari and ensure he is released immediately and unconditionally and any prosecution procedure dropped;
  • Call for him to be granted immediate access to a lawyer of his choosing and the right to be assisted by his lawyer including during his questioning.

His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia        
Salutation: Your Majesty

Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior, P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125 (please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Royal Highness

And copies to:
Minister of Culture and Information

His Excellency Dr Abdulaziz Bin Muhiyuddin Khoja
Ministry of Culture and Information
Nasseriya Street,
Riyadh 11161
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 402 3570 / 405 0674

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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