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Saudi Twitter Apostate's Supporters Targeted

A controversial Saudi blasphemy case is set to expand to online supporters of a columnist who made 'blasphemous' tweets
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/13/2012, 6:14 PM

Bloggers who expressed support for Saudi columnist Hazma Kashgari may be summoned to face charges of blasphemy alongside him.

"The public prosecutor in Jeddah is filing a lawsuit against Hamza Kashgari on charges of disrespecting God and insulting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in his Twitter account," sources told Al Hayat daily.

The sources said that public prosecutor in the Red Sea city of Jeddah intended to summon people who expressed support or agreed with him on the social network, the daily reported on Monday.

"The public prosecutor, as the attorney for the society, has the right to summon anyone who encouraged the defendant or who is connected to matters that motivated his action," Abdul Aziz Al Zamel, a legal consultant, said, quoted by Al Hayat.

According to Saudi daily Arab News, "a number of Saudis have called for the trial of all those who tweeted support for Kashgari, saying they were equally guilty."

"Those who supported the contents of Kashgari's tweets are considered criminal exactly like him," Khaled Abu Rashid, a lawyer and a legal consultant, was quoted as saying. The sentence to be passed on Kahgari should be imposed on his supporters too, he said.

The Arabic daily said that individual and collective calls were made to the Prosecution and Investigations Commission to try Kashgari and all the bloggers who supported him in his blasphemy.

The 23-year-old columnist had fled Saudi Arabia after calls he be arrested and tried for apostasy – punishable by beheading – was deported on Sunday by Malaysian authorities who arrested him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Saudi King Abdul Aziz issued an arrest warrant for Kashgari for "for crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet."

"People are put on trial for offending other people, and the matter is far more critical when there is a profanation of God or His Prophet," King Abdul Aziz explained in the instructions to the interior minister to arrest Kashgari.

Last week, Kashgari sent out a series of tweets that reportedly addressed the Prophet Mohammad as an equal.

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you,” he wrote in one tweet.

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more,” he wrote in a second.

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more,” he concluded in a third.

Saudi Arabia uses a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law in its jurisprudence and also applies the death penalty to cases of armed robbery, drug trafficking, rape, sorcery and witchcraft, murder, and apostasy from Islam.

Blasphemy can incur penalties of 500 lashes or more in Saudi Arabia, which is often fatal in of itself.

In 2011 the kingdom beheaded at least 73 people.