The Saudi Arabian monarchy is punishing another citizen for choosing to leave Islam for atheism, continuing its streak of enforcing the harshest blasphemy laws in the world.
In April, Saudi Arabia sentenced Ahmad Al-Shamri, who was arrested in 2014, to death after years of Al-Shamri’s appealing the decision. Al-Shamri was charged with atheism and blasphemy after videos of him questioning Islam surfaced on social media years ago. The same year of Al-Shamri’s arrest, the Saudi Arabian king declared atheists “terrorists.”
“Saudi Arabia is trying to silence and lock away anyone who doesn’t toe the official line or dares to express an independent view on politics, religion, or human rights,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, noted in a February report.
Saudi Arabia’s history of punishing atheists, secularists and Muslims who question Islam is extensive. Whether punishments came in the form of death or violent public lashing, the country’s disturbing history led the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to consistently crown Saudi Arabia as the biggest violator of religious freedom internationally.