Interpol in hot water after Saudi-ordered journalist arrest

A journalist who created a storm in Saudi Arabia after a tweet about the Prophet Muhammad has created problems for Interpol.

Hamza Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia after people were furious because he tweeted that he was not a big fan of the Prophet Muhammad any more.

The posting, which was later deleted, read: “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.”

More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”.

While “insulting the prophet” is not an international crime, Interpol jumped on Kashgari in Kuala Lumpur on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

It seems likely that he will go back to Saudi Arabia, where he is likely to be killed, so that he can explain to the Prophet why he does not like him any more.

While that is bad enough, Interpol has been accused of letting Saudi Arabia abuse its powers for using the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested for what, effectively, is a thought crime.

According to the Guardian, Interpol denied that its notice system had been involved in the arrest of Kashgari. A spokesperson said: “The assertion that Saudi Arabia used Interpol’s system in this case is wholly misleading and erroneous.”

However, human rights groups have questioned why the Malaysian authorities would want to arrest and return Kashgari to his native country without Interpol being involved.

Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials International called on Interpol to stand by its obligations to fundamental human rights and “to comply with its obligation not to play any part in this case, which is clearly of a religious nature”.

Last year, Fair Trials International said that Interpol was allowing its system to be abused for political purposes when a red notice was issued for the arrest of the Oxford-based leader of an Asian separatist movement, Benny Wenda.

Wenda had been granted asylum and has lived in the UK since 2003. 

Now, reports the BBC, it has been confirmed Kashgari has been deported to Saudi Arabia, where he faces execution.