Saudi Arabia has reportedly sentenced an atheist to death after he was convicted of both “atheism and blasphemy” for uploading at least one video to social media that was critical of Muhammad, Islam’s primary prophet, Religion News Service reported.
Ahmad Al-Shamri, a man in his 20s, who first faced legal obstacles when he was arrested back in 2014 after his clip critical of Islam caught the attention of authorities, lost two appeals before Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court said his crimes warrant the death penalty.
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Al-Shamri, who is from Hafar al-Bati, was first sentenced to death in 2015, according to the Independent.
His attorneys at the time reportedly attempted to plead insanity, claiming their client was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he made the videos, though the Independent noted that Saudi officials have not confirmed the death sentence ruling.
If these accounts are accurate, Al-Shamri is certainly not the first person to face harsh punishments in Saudi Arabia. Just consider Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes in 2014 after he simply launched a liberal website aimed at discussing Saudi politics; it was critical of the conservative government, which is what landed him in hot water.
With all this in mind, the Middle Eastern country ranks 14th on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, which ranks the worst countries in the world to be a Christian.
A country profile accompanying the latest edition of the World Watch List says that Saudi Arabia has a “very high” level of persecution, adding that the environment is “characterized by strong societal and governmental pressure on converts to Christianity in a country where citizens are expected to be Muslims.”
And the profile also notes that Saudi Arabia has no church buildings and that many Christian converts must live in secret. All things considered, it’s no surprise that atheists would also be treated with disdain. In 2014, the government passed laws likening atheists to terrorists, according to the Independent.
Reactions on Twitter to Al-Shamri’s purported death sentence were diverse, with some actually supporting the punishment, RT reported.
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