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Judicial CP - November 2005

Corpun file 16930

Arab News, Jeddah/Riyadh/Dhahran, 14 November 2005

Teacher Charged With Mocking Religion Sentenced to Jail

By Ebtihal Mubarak
Arab News


JEDDAH, 14 November 2005 — The controversial case of Muhammad Al-Harbi, a Saudi high school teacher accused of mocking religion, came to a surprising end on Saturday. Al-Harbi was sentenced to three years in prison and 750 lashes — 50 lashes per week for 15 weeks. The lashes are to be given in the public market in the town of Al-Bikeriya in Al-Qassim.

A number of 12th Grade students, along with some teachers from the same school, filed a lawsuit a year-and-a-half ago against Al-Harbi. He was accused of mocking Islam, favoring Jews and Christians, preventing students from performing ablutions. He was also charged with studying witchcraft. At the time, he was a chemistry teacher at Al-Fowailiq High School in the town of Ein Al-Juwa in Al-Qassim.

"This is a very cruel sentence," Al-Harbi told Arab News. He explained over the phone that the students who filed the lawsuit had failed the monthly chemistry test. "They asked me to give them the exam again and when I refused, they went to the principal to complain but he upheld my decision," he explained.

According to Al-Harbi, the students' actions were triggered by some Islamic studies teachers who used the students' anger at Al-Harbi and convinced them to file the lawsuit.

The reason for the Islamic studies teachers action has its roots five years ago when Al-Harbi joined the staff of Al-Fowailiq High School after graduating from King Saud University in Riyadh. Based on his academic record and extracurricular activities, the school principal appointed Al-Harbi as school activities organizer.

Deeply disturbed by the explosions at the Al-Hamra Compound in Riyadh in 2003, Al-Harbi felt it his duty as an educator to enlighten his students and warn them of terrorism and its consequences. He went to great lengths by talking to students, hanging anti-terrorism signs around the school and speaking against terrorism.

"The Ministry of Education has recently ordered all schools to lecture students on the dangers of extremism and terrorism in general, but I was a step ahead of their decision," said Al-Harbi.

Apparently Al-Harbi's actions and comments against terrorism upset a number of Islamic studies teachers known for their fundamentalist beliefs. After the Al-Hamra blast in Riyadh, Al-Harbi copied an article, "Cavemen Go to Hell" written by Saudi columnist Hammad Al-Salmi in Al-Jazirah newspaper, attacking terrorists and extremists. Al-Harbi posted the article on the school bulletin board but it was ripped off and torn to pieces.


Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, Al-Harbi's lawyer, told Arab News that the sentence was illegal. "Any case that has to do with sacrilege must be heard in a special religious court and not in a regular one," he explained. "The judge heard them individually and did not give the defendant the right to interrogate the witnesses," said Al-Lahem. He also refused to acknowledge Al-Lahem as the defendant's lawyer. Al-Lahem will appeal the verdict 10 days from the date of the original sentence.


The Ministry of Education has transferred Al-Harbi from his teaching job to an administrative one at the governorate educational office in Ein Al-Juwa. When he contacted the ministry and asked why he was being moved, Al-Harbi failed to get a clear answer.

Copyright: Arab News 2003 All rights reserved.

blob Follow-up: 12 December 2005 - Royal pardon for teachers who upset Muslim scholars

Corpun file 16934

Arab News, Jeddah/Riyadh/Dhahran, 15 November 2005

Joy Riders Sentenced to Jail, Flogging

By Mahmoud Ahmad
Arab News

HOFUF, 15 November 2005 — Police in Al-Ahsa will implement a court order against two young men who were caught joy-riding for a third time, Al-Watan reported. During previous arrests, the duo escaped punishment after signing a pledge that they will never repeat the offense. The third time, a local court sentenced them to 20 days in jail and 50 lashes. It also ruled that their cars be impounded and proceeds from their sale would go to a charity.

Copyright: Arab News 2003 All rights reserved.

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