The sharia courts in Saudi Arabia have sentenced a young man in his twenties to death by beheading for atheism, apostasy and blasphemy. This is a country ruled by normative Islam. Ahmad Al Shamri renounced Islam and Muhammad on social media. His defense tried to enter an insanity plea, stating that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of his supposed crime, but drug use also comes with a death penalty in that country.
Preserving the supremacy of Islam and the sharia are the highest priorities of Saudi Arabia, above the life and limb of any human being regardless of age; this norm is drilled into its citizens. Some Muslim twitter users have celebrated Ahmad Al Shamri’s death sentence, with one tweet stating: “I wish there could be live streaming when you cut his head off.”
Royal decrees under the late King Abdullah re-defined atheists as terrorists, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Beheadings are the most common form of execution in Saudi Arabia, although Saudi authorities also sometimes use a firing squad. Figures reported in 2016 showed that executions in Saudi Arabia hit their highest level in two decades, with at least 157 beheadings in 2015, 40% for drug related offences. Al Shamri was clearly doomed.
Saudi Arabia has been on the UN’s Human Rights Council since September 2015, and last week it was elected to the UN women’s rights commission.
“Man ‘sentenced to death for atheism’ in Saudi Arabia”, by Bethan McKernan, Independent, April 26, 2017:
A man in Saudi Arabia has reportedly been sentenced to death on charges of apostasy after losing two appeals.
Several local media reports identified the man as Ahmad Al Shamri, in his 20s, from the town of Hafar al-Batin, who first came to the authorities’ attention in 2014 after allegedly uploading videos to social media in which he renounced Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.
He was arrested on charges of atheism and blasphemy and held in prison before being convicted by a local court and sentenced to death in February 2015.
At the time Mr Shamri’s defence entered an insanity plea, adding that his client was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of making the videos.
He reportedly lost an Appeals Court case, and a Supreme Court ruled against him earlier this week.
While news stories in the last few years consistently identify Mr Shamri, his identity or sentencing has not been verified by the Saudi authorities.
The Independent’s requests for comment from Saudi government representatives were not immediately answered.
Under Saudi Arabia’s strict religious laws, leaving Islam can be punishable by harsh prison sentences and corporeal punishment – and a 2014 string of royal decrees under the late King Abdullah re-defined atheists as terrorists, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Last year, a citizen was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing atheistic sentiment in hundreds of social media posts.
Mr Shamri’s name and hometown have trended on Arabic-speaking Twitter in the last few days. Some users have even celebrated his sentencing.
“If you’re a lowkey atheist that’s fine. But once you talk in public & criticize God or religion, then you shall be punished,” one such post read.
“I wish there could be live streaming when you cut his head off,” said another.
International human rights watchdogs have consistently condemned Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
The Kingdom came under further scrutiny last week when it emerged it had been elected to the UN’s women’s rights commission.
Under the country’s system of guardianship, women’s rights and freedom of movement is heavily restricted. They are not allowed to drive, and voted for the first time in 2015……