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Daily Israel Report

Saudi Twitter Apostate Repents

Hazma Kashgari has repented a series of tweets he made as prosecutors prepare to interrogate and charge him with blasphemy.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/15/2012, 7:44 PM

Saudi columnist Hazma Kashgari who is being held on charges of blasphemy for several Twitter posts he made insists that he has repented.

Hamza Kashgari "has affirmed to his family that he stands by his repentance, that he has made a mistake and regrets it," a relative told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Kashgari, 23, fled to Malaysia after a series of Tweets he made ignited public furor and led to threats on his life and calls he be tried for apostacy - which is punishable by beheading in Saudi Arabia.

However, Kashgari was deported back to Saudi Arabia by authorities in Kuala Lampur pursuant to a royal arrest decree issued by Saudi King Abdul Haziz.

The relative said Kashgari "informed his family he is in very good condition," adding, "The family is still waiting for authorities to allow them to visit him and appoint a defense lawyer."

A Saudi lawyer told AFP on Tuesday that Kashgari "has not yet been interrogated and we hope this issue ends before it reaches the attorney general."

Saudi English-language daily Arab News reported earlier this week that Kashgari would be charged with blasphemy, which can be punished by death in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

On the Prophet Muhammand's birthday, Kashgari wrote, “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.

Kashgari's posts sparked outrage and prompted thousands to call on a Facebook page entitled "The Saudi people demand Hamza Kashgari's execution" for him to be executed.

Kashgari immediately apologized for his comments, tweeting: "I have made a mistake, and I hope Allah and all those whom I have offended will forgive me,"  before fleeing the country.

Prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh called for the public to accept Kashgari's repentance, "His repentance from what he said has comforted me. I feel the sincerity of his statements and call onto my brothers to pray for him."

However, public prosecutors are not only planning charges against Kashgari, but are also probing both those who expressed support for him online and those who aided him in his flight from the country.