Monday, November 14, 2005

Saudi Teacher Sentenced To Jail and Lashes For Comments About Religion

Today's Arab News reports that a Saudi high school teacher accused of mocking religion was sentenced on Saturday to three years in prison and 750 lashes — 50 lashes per week for 15 weeks. The lashes are to be administered in the public market in the town of Al-Bikeriya in Al-Qassim. The chemistry teacher, Muhammad Al-Harbi, was sued by a number of 12th-grade students who had recently failed their monthly chemistry test and by some teachers who claimed Al-Harbi favored Jews and Christians, prevented students from performing ablutions, and studied witchcraft.

Al-Harbi's strong comments against terrorism have upset a number of fundamentalist Islamic studies teachers who often encouraged students to disobey Al-Harbi. Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, Al-Harbi’s lawyer, said that the sentence was illegal because “Any case that has to do with sacrilege must be heard in a special religious court and not in a regular one.” He also said that the judge did not give Al-Harbi the right to interrogate the witnesses, and refused to recognize Al-Lahem as his lawyer. An appeal will be filed.