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Humanist groups today called on the Saudi government to release a man convicted of atheism and sentenced to death.

US-based organizations the American Humanist Association (AHA), the Center for Inquiry (CFI), and the Secular Coalition of America (SCA), along with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) have petitioned the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s to release Ahmad Al-Shamri, who was sentenced to death earlier this year having been accused of blasphemy and apostasy.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia (center) was joined in Riyadh, May 2017, by president Trump of the USA (right) and President Sisi of Egypt (left) to inaugurate “The Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology”. Saudi Arabia defines atheism as terrorism, has been criticised for mass executions conducted by decapitation, and promotes ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam around the world

Saudi Arabia is frequently criticised for its human rights failings. The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report entry for Saudi Arabia notes the country’s highly restrictive regime in which “promoting atheism” is defined as terrorism under the 2015 anti-terror laws, and in which “apostasy” and “blasphemy” are punishable by death. Even mild critics of the government or proponents of secularism and liberalism are routinely harassed by religious police and there are numerous prisoners of conscience.

The AHA, along with its co-signers, sent this letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the United States calling upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to pardon Ahmad Al-Shamri and others who face penalties for similarly voicing their opinions in the public sphere. The letter also calls upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to amend its laws to allow its citizens to express their universal human rights, including the rights to free speech and freedom of religious expression, or lack thereof.

“It’s a travesty that any government would sentence one of its citizens to death for expressing their universal human rights”, said Roy Speckhardt, executive director at the American Humanist Association.

Last month the IHEU spoke at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of Ensaf Haidar, wife of the imprisoned Saudi liberal, Raif Badawi, and called for the release of all prisoners of conscience in the Kingdom.

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