Saudi writer may face trial over Prophet Mohammad

Mon Feb 13, 2012 12:01pm EST
 
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By Asma Alsharif and Amena Bakr

JEDDAH/DUBAI (Reuters) - A young Saudi blogger and columnist has been deported to his homeland to face trial soon after fleeing from death threats triggered by comments on the social network Twitter seen as blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad.

Hamza Kashgari, 23, fled Saudi Arabia four days ago but was arrested by police in Malaysia en route to New Zealand. Malaysia, which has a majority Muslim population and enjoys close ties with Arab states, sent back Kashgari on Sunday.

A former columnist for the Al Bilad newspaper, Kashgari had sent a series of Twitter posts, or tweets, one week ago of an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Mohammad.

In Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter and home to Islam's two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, such comments could be considered blasphemy and punishable by death under the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam.

Kashgari has apologized at length for his posts, however, and a Saudi lawyer said while he faced harsh punishment, it was unlikely to be the death penalty.

Interior and foreign ministry spokesmen declined to comment on Kashgari's status, although Saudi Information Minister Abdul-Aziz Khoja responded to the incident via Twitter.

"When I read what he posted, I wept and got very angry that someone in the country of the Two Holy Mosques attacks our Prophet in a manner that does not fit a Muslim...," Khoja said.

"I have given instructions to ban him from writing for any Saudi newspaper or magazine, and there will be legal measures to guarantee that," he said.   Continued...