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SAUDI ARABIA Saudi tweeter's supporters may face court summon

Blasphemy case likely to have ripple effects; Malaysia defends deportation decision

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
February 13, 2012

Manama: People who encouraged a Saudi controversial columnist facing charges of blasphemy could be summoned by the public prosecutor, a report has said.

"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 was likely 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.

The prosecutor is based in Jeddah, the city where Hamza Kashgari posted his tweets on Prophet's Mohammad birthday anniversary before fleeing to Malaysia, the sources said.

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 lawyer, however, said it was important to use the written texts to differentiate between two things in this case.

"If the support was for general principles like freedom of expression, then this is a different matter, but if the support was for the attacks on Allah and His Prophet, then the supporters should be tried for apostasy," he said in the report quoting Al Eqtisadiah newspaper.

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 was deported on Sunday by the Malaysian authorities who arrested him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

On Sunday, a Malaysian daily reported that Kashgari was deported back home hours before his lawyers managed to get a High Court injunction to stop the deportation.

The lawyers, led by R Kesavan, said that they obtained the injunction at 1:30 pm on Sunday, but were told that Kashgari has been put on a plane at 10am.

The injunction was an order to the police, the Home Ministry, as well as the Subang and Kuala Lumpur International Airport immigration authorities to stop Kashgari's deportation, the daily said.

However, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Monday denied the claim, saying that no court order was issued to prevent his repatriation.

"There was no injunction. No court order was given to prevent us from returning him to Saudi," the minister told reporters. "If there was a court order, we would abide by it, but there wasn't, so don't make up stories. We have never failed to obey the justice system," he said, quoted by The Malaysian Insider.

The columnist is a Saudi Arabian national wanted by his home country to be tried in the justice system for his offence, the minister said.

"I will not compromise. Do not look at Malaysia as a safe transit... Do not think you can come in and out of Malaysia. He is a foreign national, he is wanted by his own country of origin," he said.

Hishammuddin said allegations made by several parties that the columnist would be killed if he was deported were "illogical."

"Allegations that he would be executed, abused, do not make sense. The country being accused is a dignified country. These are serious allegations against Saudi Arabia," Hishammuddin said, quoted by the daily.

The home minister said that there were no requests made by Interpol for Kashgari to be returned to his country of origin.

"There were also claims that the request for Kashgari's deportation was made by the Interpol, which is not true. The request was made by the Saudi government," he said.

Deportation decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and not all those apprehended are sent back, Hishammuddin said.

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