On May ۶, a Saudi court sentenced prominent activist Raif Badawi to ۱۰ years in prison and ۱,۰۰۰ lashes. He was accused of undermining general security and committing apostasy by creating the Free Saudi Liberals website for political and social debates. Amnesty International condemned Badawi’s sentence, saying that he is “the latest victim to fall prey to the ruthless campaign to silence peaceful activists in Saudi Arabia,” and “the authorities seem determined to crush all forms of dissent through every means at their disposal.”
Human Rights Watch wrote that ”Saudi Arabia has a long history of suppressing free expression.” Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, is awaiting his own criminal trial with charges including “breaking allegiance with the king,” “making international organizations hostile to the kingdom,” and “setting up an unlicensed organization.” Another human rights activist Fadhil al-Manasif received a ۱۵-year prison sentence and a ۱۵-year travel ban for “breaking allegiance with the king” and “being in contact with foreign news agencies in order to exaggerate news and harm the reputation of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people.”
Madawi al-Rasheed writes that law in Saudi Arabia “remains sabotaged by politics”, and “[t]he government justifies its harsh sentences by hiding behind the veneer of applying Sharia”. Al-Rasheed believes that “while the criticism of the human rights record of unfriendly governments becomes central in Western foreign policy, Saudi Arabia is still seen as a unique case that needs to be pampered.” She concludes that “respecting Saudi exceptionalism” which became a “cherished Western foreign policy doctrine” has shielded the kingdom from both internal and external criticism.