Prison, lashes for liberal Saudi web forum founder

AP News
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Posted: Jul 30, 2013 9:38 AM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A newspaper in Saudi Arabia says the founder of a liberal-minded website has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes after angering Islamic authorities in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The website started by Raif Badawi urged Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country, which follows a strict form of Islam that includes harsh punishments for challenging customs. Badawi has been held since June 2012.

The Al-Watan newspaper reports Tuesday that the judge in the Red Sea port of Jiddah imposed the sentences but dropped charges of apostasy, which could have brought a death sentence.

Hard-line Saudi clerics have raised repeated objections to social media, including one prominent Islamic scholar describing Twitter as a path to hell. He later withdrew the comment.