Saudi Arabia Sentence Atheist To Death For Insulting The Prophet


SAN FRANCISCO, April 28, (THEWILL) – A Saudi Arabian man who renounced Islam and made disparaging remarks about the Prophet​ Muhammad has been sentenced to death.

Saudi authorities first became aware of Ahmad Al-Shamri, said to be in his early 20s, in 2014 after he uploaded a series of videos reflecting his views on social media. He was subsequently arrested on charges of atheism and blasphemy, faced trial and was sentenced to death in February 2015.

Al-Shamri initially pleaded insanity, saying that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he made the comments but his trial focused heavily on Quranic law and little on any mitigating mental illness. As a result, Al-Shamri has been sentenced to death for being an atheist.

After a lengthy appeals process, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court ruled against Al-Shamri on Tuesday affirming the death sentence.

According to Amnesty International, the Gulf oil giant carried out at least 154 executions in 2016. The country has been habitually criticised by human rights groups over its human rights record, but it is still a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council. Its term expires in 2019.

Leaving Islam is punishable by death in the ultra-conservative kingdom which is carried out by beheading or shooting.

“The conservative religious folks have full control of the justice system,” said Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher at HRW.

“Judges come from religious seminaries in Saudi Arabia. They see themselves as preservers of Saudi Arabia’s character as an Islamic state,” he added. “And they come down hard on people who step out of line.”

Saudi Arabia was ranked third by Amnesty International for recorded executions in 2016 behind China (which was in the thousands) and Iran (567+). The true figures are thought to be significantly higher as the figures only cover the judicial use of the death penalty.