Interpol Arrests Saudi Columnist for Tweeting Blasphemy

February 9: [Hamza] Kashgari, a 23-year old poet, was a columnist for the Jeddah-based daily Al-Bilad before last week, when he caused an uproar by posting material on his Twitter account detailing an imaginary conversation with the prophet in which he addressed him as an equal, according to news reports. The comments were deemed religiously offensive and inappropriate by many in the kingdom, including its rulers. Some influential clerics and ordinary citizens called on the authorities to prosecute Kashgari for blasphemy and apostasy, both capital crimes in Saudi Arabia. Others directly demanded his execution or offered monetary reward to his killers, news reports said. Although he removed the tweets and issued an apology, the furor continued to grow, with someone posting his home address online, according to the reports.

February 10: A Saudi journalist was arrested in Malaysia on Wednesday night after a request by Interpol on behalf of Saudi authorities. Hamza Kashgari tweeted a mock conversation between himself and the prophet Mohammed last week, and fled the kingdom after he received thousands of death threats. Kashgari was en route to New Zealand when he was arrested. Saudi Arabia is seeking his extradition in order to try him for blasphemy.

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