Human Rights Watch asked the government of Saudi Arabia to dismiss a death sentence against a Turkish barber who was convicted of “cursing the name of God” while engaged in an angry argument with a man he thought was his friend. Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s Middle East director, said: “The charges, conviction, and sentence against Bogday show the dangers of criminalizing speech on the grounds that it is offensive.” The Turkish government has also called upon King Abdullah to revoke the death sentence and allow the Turkish man to return home.
The main testimony against Sabri Bogday was from his Egyptian “friend” who testified and then fled the country. Saudi Arabia imposes a strict version of Islamic law but has no written penal code and judges have wide discretionary powers in sentencing.
Human Rights Watch also asked that charges be dropped against Raf Badawi, a Saudi man wo used his Web site to criticize the religious police, who impose strict Islamic rules in Saudi Arabia. Badawi hurriedly left his home land to avoid a prison sentence.