Saudi blogger's tweets could cost him his life
Hamza Kashgari's tweets of an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Mohammad are viewed as blasphemous by the Saudi Arabian government. Now he faces trial with a possible death sentence.
Saudi Arabian blogger Hamza Kashgari tweeted last week about an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Mohammad, writing he "loved the rebel in you" and that he "loved some aspects of you, hated others."
Little did Kashgari know that these tweets could culminate in his possible death sentence.
Shortly after his tweets, tens of thousands of angry commenters denounced Kashgari and demanded his punishment.
"The only choice is for Kashgari to be killed and crucified in order to be a lesson to other secularists," commented an online reader of al-Madina newspaper Abu Abdulrahman, according to Reuters.
"When I read what he posted, I wept and got very angry that someone in the country of the Two Holy Mosques attacks our Prophet in a manner that does not fit a Muslim," tweeted the Saudi Information Minister Abdul-Aziz Khoja.
Scared by the outrage, the 23-year-old Kashgari deleted his tweets and decided to flee the country. He spent four days on the run en route to New Zealand but was picked up by authorities in Malaysia. Yesterday, Kashgari was extradited back to Saudi Arabia to face trial.
In Saudi Arabia, blasphemy is illegal and can even carry the death penalty. Should a court conclude that Kahsgari's tweets were blasphemous, his punishment may be severe. Human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are calling for Kahsgari's release, saying he should have the right to freedom of expression.
Saudi Arabia's government controls all news in that country, but it's increasingly difficult for it to control information in a Web networked world. According to The Daily Beast, Kashgari said in an interview before his arrest that he viewed his actions as part of a process toward freedom.
"I believe I'm just a scapegoat for a larger conflict," Kashgari said. "There are a lot of people like me in Saudi Arabia who are fighting for their rights."
According to Reuters, Kashgari has since apologized extensively for his tweets, and if he is repentant in court he could avoid the death penalty.