Saudi Blogger And Talk-show Guest Sentenced To Seven Years
A Saudi blogger, who has criticized the role of religion in his country on his Internet site and on local television, has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for violating Islamic values, propagating liberal thought and disobeying his father. Raif Badawi, editor of the Free Saudi Liberals website, had been held in prison since his arrest in June of last year. Although Saudi Arabia functions under strict interpretation of religious law, or sharia, and is believed to be the world's principal breeding ground of Islamic terrorists, the U.S. is loath to criticize its human rights record and regards the country as its principal ally in the Middle East. (It is also the world's largest oil exporter.) However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the U.S. was deeply concerned by the sentence. We believe that when public speech is deemed offensive, be it via social media or any other means, the issue is best addressed through open dialogue and honest debate, she said.