Saudi Arabia frees man jailed for Mohammad tweets: sources
RIYADH (Reuters) - A Saudi blogger was freed on Tuesday, 20 months after he was detained for publishing an imaginary conversation with Islam's Prophet Mohammad on Twitter, his friend and a lawyer said, though there was no confirmation from the government.
Hamza Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia for Malaysia in February last year after his tweets enraged some conservative Muslims and triggered death threats. He was extradited back to the kingdom days later and imprisoned.
"He was freed this morning," the 24-year-old's friend told Reuters, but declined to comment further. Prominent human rights lawyer Abdulrahman Allahim congratulated Kashgari on his release on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states have grown increasingly sensitive to criticism of senior officials, ruling family members and clerics, and to comments they regard as blasphemous, particularly on social media.
Another rights lawyer and activist, Waleed Abu al-Khair, told Reuters he had been sentenced to three months in jail on Tuesday for signing a petition in 2011 against the imprisonment of a group of political reformers.
Activists said on Twitter a columnist, Tariq al-Mubarak, has been in detention for two days after supporting a campaign to allow women to drive.
Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry and government spokespeople were not immediately available for comment on the cases.
The kingdom has regularly dismissed criticism of its human rights record from Western countries and campaign groups.
On Monday the cabinet issued a statement saying it "works to protect and promote human rights to maintain its identity, culture, gains and care for its citizens, on the basis of adherence to the Holy Koran". Continued...