I needed some good news

hamzaHamza Kashgari, the young Saudi journalist whose tweets were deemed insulting to Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, has been released.

He faced the death penalty and was returned from Malaysia where he had fled to escape Saudi [in]justice.

I needed some good news today if only for a few seconds.

Only hours after confirming Kashgari’s release, a court in Jeddah sentenced Abu al-Khair to three months in prison for signing a statement calling for reforms…

(Via Maha Kamal)

Update on Alex Aan and Hamza Kashgari: We must keep the pressure on

ALEX AAN

If you recall, I had told you about the case of 30 year old atheist Alex Aan, the civil servant who had been beaten and arrested in Indonesia because his postings on Facebook ‘insulted Islam’. In an update on his case, it’s reported that he has been indicted on three counts. The report says that the trial was attended by five witnesses who had seen the pictures and posts on the Facebook group [and obviously still lived to tell the tale].

The Prosecutor has said the posts caused a ‘public disturbance and outcry’ [yes to all FIVE members of the public]. Apparently, the indictment was ‘strengthened by the fact that Yuhandri, an expert witness, said a person was not allowed to write anything that created public disturbance and outcry.’

Whilst this all seems like a really bad joke, let’s not forget that Alex has been in prison since 20 January. You may know that the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the Atheist Alliance International are collecting money towards his case. We’ve sent him a letter asking him how he wants the money to be spent and what he needs.

A human rights activist will have gone to Padang today to meet Alex and his lawyers at Sijunjung court and give him our letter. He’ll also bring back more details about his case and what more we can do to help.

If you want to support Alex’s case financially, you can send a donation to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Just make sure to earmark it for Alex Aan. So far, we have raised around £600, including a donation from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK).

HAMZA KASHGARI

In other news, there have been some reports that 23 year old Hamza Kashgari who faces execution in Saudi Arabia for his Tweets about Mohammad is now out of danger and is to be released imminently or that he is only being held ‘for his own safety’. But these reports are not true.

I just got two messages from a family member and a friend. One message said:

That’s not true, nothing has been confirmed so far, everything still foggy and in a gray area. We hear from him from one time to time informing us that he’s ok and that’s it.

We must keep the pressure on the Saudi goverment so that it doesn’t dare hurt him because the world’s attention has been turned elsewhere or because people think he is now safe. He’s not.

Here’s a petition you can sign; it’s already been signed by the likes of Soad Baba Aissa, Gita Sahgal, Salman Rushdie and Richard Dawkins. Please sign it now if you haven’t already done so.

By the way, here’s a site of his supporters. It has a counter. He has been in prison now for 60 days…

The Saudi government will be held accountable for Hamza Kashgari’s life and security

We demand immediate freedom for Hamza Kashgari!
Open letter to the Saudi Embassy in London-UK

To Whom It May Concern:

We are outraged to learn that 23 year old writer Hamza Kashgari is in prison after being deported to Saudi Arabia from Malaysia where he had fled in fear of his life. The deportation of a person with a well-founded fear of persecution is a violation of human and refugee rights. We demand that he be immediately released and his life safeguarded.

Kashgari is not a criminal; as a poet and writer, he was merely Tweeting an imagined conversation with Mohammad, Islam’s prophet. This is his basic human right to free expression and would not be deemed a crime in many countries world-wide. It is because he is a Saudi national and due to Sharia law that the expressions of Kashgari and others, including many Muslims who question, criticise and challenge Islam, become matters of life and death. His persecution is within a context of on-going state repression, lack of social justice, and restrictions on rights and freedoms for all citizens via Sharia law and repression.

We call on the Saudi government to immediately and unconditionally release Hamza Kashgari. It is not Hamza who must in condemned but the officials and clergymen calling for his death. His persecution is not justice but barbarity.

Any harm or punishment meted out against Hamza will be met with world-wide public outrage. Countless groups and individuals have already come to the fore demanding his release. Here is one such petition in his defence supported by well known writers, campaigners and defenders of free expression.

Needless to say, the Saudi government will be held accountable for Hamza Kashgari’s safety and life.

We look forward to your earliest response on this urgent matter.

Sincerely,
Yanar Mohammed, President, Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraq
Houzan Mahmoud, International Spokesperson, Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran

***

Please sign the petition in support of Hamza Kashgari. Tell your friends, family and colleagues to sign it. The more we keep the spotlight on his case, the more difficult it will be for the Saudi government to harm him. Sign it nowwww! Please!

(Photo via Free Hamza Kashgari Facebook Page, which you should join too.)

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Hassan Radwan just sent me a link to the video clip of the Saudi Sheikh Nasser Al Omar crying whilst relating the ‘offence’ that Hamza Kashgari has committed by tweeting about Mohammad, Islam’s prophet. As is expected, the Sheikh quickly gathers his emotions and calls for Hamza’s death.

The sheikh’s crocodile tears remind me of the Islamic mourning ceremonies I have been to in Iran where the mullah cries during his sermon. He seems inconsolable but then quickly stops ‘crying’, and starts eating and gossiping as if nothing has happened.

All in a day’s work.

Or as Hassan puts it:

I don’t why but he reminds me of the Walrus in Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” who cried tears of pity for the Oysters while greedily eating as many as he could.

It would be funny if it wasn’t a matter of life of death… See the Sheikh’s fine acting qualities for yourself:

By the way, don’t forget to support the campaign to free Hamza; please sign the petition.

Join Free Hamza Facebook Page.

There must be more people who want Hamza to live not die

The Facebook page الشعب السعودي يريد القصاص من حمزة كاشغري ‘The Saudi People Demand Ghisas [Retribution] for Hamza Kashgari’ has 22,500 members as of now.

And the Free Hamza Kashgari page you ask? 2,500.

Facebook sees no problem with the first Facebook page though complaints have been made. It’s ‘their culture’ after all.

But a call for Ghisas under Sharia law is a call for ‘retribution’ and be assured that it doesn’t mean tweeting a poem offensive to Hamza…

Now I know there are more people that want Hamza to live not die, many of them in Saudi Arabia.

Well, let’s see it please.

Join Free Hamza Kashgari Facebook page.

Also, please sign the petition.

Freedom for Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari

On 12 February, Malaysian police deported 23 year old Saudi columnist Hamza Kashgari, who fled Saudi Arabia after making comments on Twitter claimed by some to be “insulting” to the prophet Muhammad. There have been widespread calls from Islamists for his execution; in Saudi Arabia, blasphemy is punishable by death.

Theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia will not tolerate the most basic freedom of thought and expression. We defend the right of everyone in the world to freely express their views, including to criticise religion. We condemn the Malaysian government for detaining Kashgari who had fled the country and handing him over to the Saudi authorities. We are also concerned to learn of reports that INTERPOL may have promulgated a Saudi government warrant for his arrest. The implications of this mean that no asylum seeker or refugee is free from persecution even after having fled.

We demand that the Saudi authorities immediately and unconditionally release Kashgari. He has not committed any crime.

To support the campaign, please sign the petition.

Join Free Hamza Facebook Page.

Initial Signatures: [Read more…]

INTERPOL, you have done this before…

INTERPOL has issued a statement saying it is not involved in the arrest or deportation of Saudi blogger, Hamza Kashgari:

‘INTERPOL confirms that it has NOT been involved in the case involving a Saudi blogger arrested in Malaysia and deported to Saudi Arabia. No INTERPOL channels, its National Central Bureaus in Kuala Lumpur and Riyadh nor its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France were involved at any time in this case.

If it says so – though I am skeptical especially since it has done this before.

In 2009, a number of us wrote to its office complaining about Iranian opposition leaders being included on its wanted list at the request of the Islamic regime of Iran! In a response to Fariborz Pooya’s complaint this is what its Legal Affairs Office wrote:

From: Office of Legal Affairs – General Secretariat

Our Ref.: OLA/35010-176/5.2./CG/EH/vp

Date: 15 January 2010

Subject: Your request to INTERPOL dated 13 December 2009

Dear Mr Pooya,

The INTERPOL General Secretariat acknowledges receipt of your message on 13 December 2009, concerning Mr Kurosh Modaresi.

Please be informed that should Mr Modarsi wish to access to or challenge the information registered in INTERPOL’s files, a request must be sent by postal mail to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, which is the independent expert body in charge of processing requests for access or modification of information recorded in INTERPOL’s files….

Really?

I am not sure how Kashgari would have had the time or information to challenge INTERPOL’s files had they promulgated an arrest warrant issued by a state [corrected].

INTERPOL needs to rethink warrants instigated via oppressive regimes. This may be the case that will ensure that it does.

But a young man’s life is still at stake…

Malaysia must pay for this and Saudi Arabia too: Hamza must live

Police have confirmed that Hamza Kashgari was sent back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday despite protests. A friend has emailed to say the Malysian authorities refused to allow a lawyer to talk to him.

Malaysia’s home ministry has said that ‘The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities’. Which basically means that any asylum seeker or refugee must be returned as it is a case for the government in question!?

Malaysia must be made to pay for this heinous act of returning someone to their possible death (something that Western governments also do all the time by deporting asylum seekers).

And Saudi Arabia must feel such rage that it dare not touch a hair on Hamza’s head.

Saudi Arabia be warned. We will not let you kill Hamza. Be warned.

A campaign for Hamza will be announced shortly.

(via Sigmund)

In defence of Hamza Kashgari

I’ve received a number of calls and emails asking to help 23 year old Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari.

Hamza’s a Muslim who has been forced to flee Saudi Arabia because his Tweets about Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, have been deemed to be offensive and blasphemous by Islamists calling for his head. The Saudi king has personally issued an order to bring him to ‘justice’ and Saudi clerics have demanded that he be prosecuted for ‘cursing the prophet’. If he is found guilty, he will most likely be executed.

As a result of threats to his life, including the publishing of his home address and personal contact details, Hamza has been forced to flee the country. En route to New Zealand where he hoped to apply for asylum, he was stopped and detained in Malaysia.

There are fears that he will be deported back to Saudi Arabia where he faces imprisonment and even execution for tweeting the below to mark Mohammad’s birthday:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

Though Hamza has apologised and ‘repented’, his life remains in danger.

It’s important that we support him and demand that he be granted protection.

Here’s what you can do: [Read more…]