Saudi Arabia: Atheist tweeter sentenced to 2,000 lashes for 'denying the existence of God'


An atheist man has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and 2,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia for posting about his beliefs on Twitter.

According to AP, the 28-year-old admitted to being an atheist after Saudi religious police found he had posted more than 600 tweets "denying the existence of God, ridiculing the Quranic verses, accusing all prophets of lies and saying their teaching fuelled hostilities".

He reportedly refused to apologise, saying he had the right to express his beliefs.

A court has now handed him a fine of 20,000 riyals, just less than £4,000, in addition to the lashes and jail time.

Islam is the state religion of Saudi Arabia. The legal system is based on Shariah law, and courts regularly impose severe physical punishments, including the death penalty, for apostasy.

A law enacted in 2014 equates atheism with terrorism. The legislation banned "calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of Islamic religion."

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes over accusations he insulted Islam. His sentence was later increased to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine.

The first 50 lashes were administered on January 9 last year, and his second flogging has been postponed more than a dozen times.

Amnesty International, which is campaigning for Badawi's release, has condemned Saudi Arabia as having "one of the worst human rights records in the world".

"Corporal punishment like flogging... is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that has no place in the justice system," Amnesty said.