July 25, 2024

Press Freedom

Saudi Arabia

OPC Denounces Blasphemy Charge Against Saudi Writer

H.R.H. Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud
c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.  20037
Fax: (202) 944.5983

Prime Min. Mohamed Najib bin Abdul Razak
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya
Fax: (011.60.3)

Your Excellencies:

The world now knows of the disgraceful conspiracy of the Saudi Arabian and Malaysian governments to deny our colleague, Hamza Kashgari, his right as a human being to think and speak freely.  His deportation from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia on February 12, 2012 was a shameful thing and a stain on the honor of your nations.

The world is well aware that Kashgari fled to Malaysia from Saudi Arabia on February 6 to escape the threats that followed his posting of tweets expressing his religious views.  The 23-year-old journalist, who wrote for Al-Bilad daily newspaper, later deleted the tweets and expressed regret.  Kashgari stopped over in Malaysia en route to New Zealand, where he planned to seek political asylum from the likely death sentence he faces in Saudi Arabia for expressing himself.

We know that Saudi Arabia immediately sought his extradition, even though your countries do not have a bilateral extradition treaty.  While the extradition negotiation played out, Kashgari was denied access to his lawyers throughout his detention.  The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, was also denied access to assess whether Kashgari wished to make a claim for political asylum.

Notwithstanding this official harassment, on February 12, Kashgari ‘s lawyers won an injunction against deportation from a Malaysian High Court judge.  But when the lawyers went to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to serve the injunction, immigration authorities informed them that earlier in the day, they had sent Kashgari on a private plane back to Saudi Arabia.

Kashgari’s lawyers were told that the deputy inspector general of police was involved in putting Kashgari on the flight back to Saudi Arabia.  Despite such high level interest, immigration authorities at the airport did not officially record the details of the deportation or describe the legal authority under which he was deported.

We know that Saudi Arabia’s highest official clerics have already declared Kashgari guilty of “apostasy” in the ideas he expressed.  And we are well aware that Saudi courts have in the past readily found people guilty of apostasy for expressing their religious opinions.  On February 8, the Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, appointed by His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, declared that “whoever is a Muslim and mocks [God, his messenger (the Prophet Muhammad), or the book (the Quran)] is thereby an unbeliever who has turned away from Islam.”  A member of the Secretariat, Dr. Salih bin Fawzan al-Fawzan, sad of Kashgari that “whoever insults God or his messenger is to be killed without being asked for repentance for this is his sentence that must be carried out on him.”

The world will watch as Kashgari’s case goes forward, meanwhile mindful that your nations’ memberships on the UN Human Rights Council make a mockery of the human right to free expression.

Respectfully yours,
Kevin McDermott
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee


H.M. King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (011. 966.1) 403.3125

Sarah Leah Whitson
Executive Director – Middle East & North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, N.Y.  10118

Tuanku Abdul HALIM Mu’adzam Shah

H.E. Adil al-Ahmad al-Jubayr
Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the U.S.A. 
Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20037
Fax: (202) 944.3113

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy & Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street
Washington, DC  20520

H.E. Jamaludin Jarjis
Ambassador of Malaysia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of Malaysia
3516 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 572.9882

H.E. James B. Smith
U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Embassy of the United States of America
P. O. Box 94309
Riyadh 11693
Saud Arabia
Fax: (011.966.1) 488.7360

(Or:  Unit 61307
APO AE 09803-1307)

H.E. Paul W. Jones
U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia
Embassy of the United States of America
APO AP 96535-8152
Kuala Lumpur
Fax: (011.60.3)

H. R. H. Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933
Airport Road, Riyadh  11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (011. 966.1) 403.3125

Ba-Kashab Building
P.O.Box 7095
Jeddah   21462
Saudi Arabia