Man Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia for Being Atheist

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By Heat Street Staff | 10:30 am, April 27, 2017

A Saudi Arabian man has reportedly been sentenced to death on charges of apostasy after uploading videos on social media renouncing Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

The man, identified in local media reports as Ahmad Al Shamri, was first arrested in 2014 on charges of atheism and blasphemy and held in prison for three years.

At the time Al Shamri entered an insanity plea, claiming he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he made the videos. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to death in February 2015.

His appeal was dismissed earlier this week by the Appeals and Supreme Courts, reports The Exmuslim website.

The kingdom, known for its appalling human rights record, forbids its citizens from criticizing or turning their backs on religion. According to the country’s strict Islamic laws, if found, apostates risk harsh prison sentences, corporal punishment and even death.

A report by Human Rights Watch found that under a series of royal decrees passed by the late King Abdullah in 2014, virtually anyone who expresses dissent or independent thinking—including atheists—can be considered a “terrorist” and punished accordingly.

Article one of the new provision defines terrorism as “calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based”.

Last year, a court sentenced a citizen to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for merely expressing doubts about his faith in hundreds of social media posts.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Al Shamri’s name started trending on Arabic-speaking Twitter, with some expressing grief for the man. But, according to the Independent, just as many seemed to feel schadenfreude for the dissident, celebrating his sentence and wishing they had put him to death themselves.

“If you’re a low key atheist that’s fine. But once you talk in public & criticize God or religion, then you shall be punished,” one post read.

“I wish there could be live streaming when you cut his head off,” said another.

The oil-rich Kingdom drew further attention last week after it emerged that the United Nations had appointed Saudi Arabia to join the Commission on the Status of Women, a UN agency founded to promote “gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Under the country’s system of guardianship, women’s rights and freedom of movement is heavily restricted. They are not allowed to drive, and voted for the first time in 2015.

“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” declared UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer on Twitter. “It’s absurd.”

Not without controversy, Saudi Arabia has sat on the UN’s human rights council since September 2015, despite the fact that it is one of the world’s most prolific executioners. In 2016 alone, 153 executions were carried out there for everything from theft to drug trafficking and rape.