SAUDI ARABIA — Raif Badawi, a blogger in Saudi Arabia who has been imprisoned for violating the nation’s anti-cybercrime law, was given the death penalty for apostasy by a higher court Wednesday, his wife told CNN.
Badawi founded the Free Saudi Liberals website and was originally given a seven-year sentence in July.
A Jeddah criminal court found Badawi, who has been in prison since June 2012, guilty of insulting Islam through his website and in television comments. His lawyer appealed the sentence, which also included 600 lashes.
A higher court found him guilty of apostasy, his wife said.
“It is an emotion I cannot describe. I never imagined this would happen,” she said. “I thought maybe they would reduce the sentence but this is unimaginable. The whole thing is about a website.”
Badawi’s legal troubles started shortly after he started the Free Saudi Liberals website in 2008. He was detained for one day and questioned about the site. Some clerics even branded him an unbeliever and apostate.
Human rights groups accuse Saudi authorities of targeting activists through the courts and travel bans. Amnesty International has said Badawi’s “is clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives.”
CNN could not reach the Saudi Arabian government officials for comment.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and the couple’s three children now live in Lebanon.