On February 22, 2015, a Saudi court handed down a sentence of death by beheading for a Saudi man in his 20s, for renouncing Islam. The man, whose name has not been published, had been arrested a year previously on charges of insulting Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, desecrating the Koran, and posting a video of him doing all these on the Keek social network..
According to the Saudi government daily Al-Sharq, the judges had stated that anyone insulting the principles of the religion would be killed, explaining their verdict with quotes from the Koran and the Hadith.
The condemned man has appealed the verdict and his appeal is expected to be considered by a higher court. His lawyer said he is addicted to drugs and requires rehabilitation.
It should be noted that a severe punishment for offences of this sort is not unusual in the Arab and Islamic countries, where those convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad are often sentenced to prison and even to death.[i]
The following are the details of the case:
Arrested For Atheism And For Insulting The Prophet Muhammad
In April 2014, it was reported that the man had been arrested in Hafar Al-Batin in northeastern Saudi Arabia for "atheism and involvement in insulting the divine and several Companions of the Prophet [Muhammad]." The Saudi government daily Al-Sharq reported that the local Saudi religious police had summoned him for questioning. According to the paper, the main evidence against him consisted of video clips that he had uploaded to Keek, including some in which he filmed himself insulting Allah and the Prophet Muhammad and tearing up a Koran and hitting it with his shoe. The paper also stated, "The suspect will face a serious problem if he cannot prove his innocence or present medical proof of insanity."
The paper also reported that the residents of the cities of Hafar Al-Batin and Al-Qaisoumah, the region where the young man lived, had condemned his "loathsome" deeds and said that his actions "represented [only] himself."
Al-Sharq report on the investigation of the suspect, April 30, 2014
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Sentence: Anyone Insulting The Principles Of The Religion Must Die
On February 22, 2015, the general court for the Hafar Al-Batin district ruled that the young man must receive the punishment set out in the Koran for renouncing Islam after it had been proven "that he renounced Islam and insulted the divine and the Prophet Muhammad, defamed him and his daughter Fatima, tore up the Koran and hit it with his shoe, filmed all these actions, and uploaded [the video] to Keek..."
The newspaper added that after the previous year's investigation of the man, "the prosecutor-general ordered that the the suspicions against him be proven and that he be sentenced according to the punishment is set out in the Koran for renouncing Islam, [that is,] by executing him by the sword. Three judges of the Hafar Al-Batin court discussed the matter and proved the claims against him and sentenced him for his renouncement of the religion of Allah. The sentence included Koran verses, hadiths, and quotes from scholars stating that anyone who insults the principles of the religion and the sacred words must be killed, because the faith of anyone who carries out these deeds is null and void."
Also noted in the report was that this preliminary sentence "was presented to the prosecutor general, who decided not to object to it," and "was also presented to the accused, who did object to it. [Now] the appeals court must decide. Five judges from the appeals court in the eastern region will examine the matter, and afterwards five judges from the criminal division of the supreme court will examine the sentence and the circumstances surrounding it and the extent to which it is corresponds to the laws of sharia and of the [Saudi] legal system... and after that [the supreme court] will be decide whether or not to approve the sentence."
Saudi Cleric: Anyone Insulting The Prophet Muhammad Must Be Sentenced To Death
Sheikh Abdallah bin Mufrih Al-'Anzi, a Saudi Islamic Affairs Ministry preacher and a member of the Saudi Sunna Association, explained: "The phenomenon of renouncing Islam is not new; it began even in the era of the Prophet Muhammad, and Allah brought down the Koran verses in order to warn against it." He went on to quote Koran verses in the matter: "Indeed, those who reverted back [to disbelief] after guidance had become clear to them - Satan enticed them and prolonged hope for them [47:25]"; "O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion - Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [5:54]"; and "And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever - for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter [2:217]." He added that the Muslim rulers and clerics "dealt firmly and boldly with this phenomenon and warned those who exchanged their faith for unbelief and those who purchased the life of this world over that of the world to come."
Additionally, Al-'Anzi quoted Sheikh Salah Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, as saying that, according to sharia law, the sentence of a man who insults Allah and the Prophet Muhammad is the same as the sentence of a man who renounces the religion of Islam. He added: "Anyone insulting Allah or the Prophet Muhammad must be killed, and his repentance [is not accepted], because this is the most severe level of renouncement of Islam."
The Young man's Lawyer: My Client Is A Drug Addict, Needs Treatment And Rehabilitation
The young man's lawyer, Tharawi Al-Muflih, rejected the accusations against his client out of hand and recommended to reassess his case. He said his client was a drug addict and alcoholic who needed medical and psychological treatment. He added that a psychiatric facility in Hafar Al-Batin had confirmed that his client used drugs, and had recommended that a medical committee assess his competence to stand trial, but this had not been done.
 See Special Dispatch No.5928, "Enforcement Of Shari'a Law In The Muslim World For Insulting Islam, Prophet Muhammad: A Review Of Recent Arrests, Imprisonment, Flogging, Death Sentences," January 12, 2015.
 Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), April 30, 2014.
 Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), February 23, 2015.
 Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), April 30, 2014.
 Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), March 2, 2015.