Free Saudi Liberals website founder Raif Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes earlier today [July 29]. Badawi was arrested on 17 June, 2012 in Jeddah and was charged with “setting up a website that undermines general security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures.

The Free Saudi Liberals website was an online forum for public discussions. It was shut following Badawi's arrest, and it had been blocked within the country for years. In today's sentence, the judge also ordered the permanent shutdown of the website:

حكم القاضي في قضية رائف بدوي بغلق موقع الشبكة الليبرالية الحرة

@abualkhair: In today's sentence in Raif Badawi's case, the judge ordered the shutdown of the Free Saudi Liberals website.

On December 17, 2012, the case was referred to a higher court, the General Court in Jeddah, after he had been charged with apostasy, which carries the death penalty. Badawi was asked by the judge to abandon his views, but he refused.

Badawi is the father of three children who left the country with their mother following his arrest. They are currently based in Beirut, Lebanon.

Amnesty International has considered him “a prisoner of conscience detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression” and demanded his immediate, unconditional release.