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Middle East

Saudi Arabia frees blogger jailed for blasphemy

A Saudi child holds up a national flag with picture of King Abdullah bin Abdelazziz in the desert kingdom's capital Riyadh, on September 23, 2013. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE

RIYADH: A Saudi journalist accused of making Tweets deemed insulting to Islam's Prophet Mohammed was on Tuesday freed from detention after 20 months, a human rights activist said.

Hamza Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia to Malaysia in February 2012 after receiving death threats for Tweets he made on the occasion of the prophet's birthday.

The Malaysian authorities immediately sent him back to Saudi Arabia, where he was arrested and told he faced blasphemy charges, which carry the death penalty.

His release Tuesday was announced on social networking sites and confirmed by human rights activist Walid Abulkheir.

"The authorities freed Kashgari at 6.30 am (0330 GMT)," Abulkheir told AFP.

On the occasion of the Muslim prophet's birthday, Kashgari tweeted: "I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you."

"I will not pray for you."

His post sparked outrage and prompted thousands to join a Facebook page entitled "The Saudi people demand Hamza Kashgari's execution."

Kashgari had quickly apologised for his comments, tweeting: "I have made a mistake, and I hope Allah and all those whom I have offended will forgive me."

Kashgari was a columnist at the Jeddah-based Al-Bilad newspaper, which fired him after the controversy.

Insulting the Prophet Mohammed is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by death in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

 

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