Saudi apostasy death sentence condemned

Baroness Berridge, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, has spoken out against the verdict of an Islamic court in Saudi Arabia which sentenced a man to death after he posted an online video of himself ripping up a copy of the Koran.

“Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is uncompromising in its protection of ‘thought, conscience and religion’ and the manifestation of those beliefs. It even covers actions that are distressing to others,” says Baroness Berridge. “I sympathise with those Muslims across the world who quite reasonably find the behaviour of the defendant in this case upsetting or offensive, but nevertheless I believe this sentence to be profoundly wrong.”

Baroness Berridge goes on to say: “ The all-party group that I chair was set up by Parliamentarians who want justice for those who are persecuted because of their religion or beliefs, and that includes campaigning against blasphemy and apostasy laws which make it a crime to convert. The freedom to convert is a foundational human right and is absolute.”

The original Saudi Gazette report stated:

HAFR AL-BATIN — The General Court has sentenced to death a young Saudi man in his 20s for denouncing Islam as his faith and various other acts of blasphemy, Al-Sharq reported.

A source from the court reported that the convict documented his apostasy by capturing a video and posting it on the social networking site Keek.

The source said: “In the video he cursed God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his daughter Fatimah and ripped a copy of the Holy Qur’an and hit it with a shoe.

“The death sentence was issued after his apostasy was proven.”

The Hafr Al-Batin branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrested him last year and his case was forwarded to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.

A sheikh at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs Abdullah Al-Enizi said renuciation of Islam is not a new phenomenon.

He said: “It has existed since the age of the Prophet and there are multiple Qur’anic verses on it.

“The phenomenon continued throughout the Islamic ages and cursing the Prophet and the Qur’an is a form of conversion that must be dealt with accordingly through the courts.”

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef will have dinner with Foreign Secretary tonight at the start of a three-day visit and is scheduled to meet Defence Secretary tomorrow and then the Prime Minister and Home Secretary on Thursday.