Saudi king orders arrest of sacrilegious writer

Order follows public furor and letters from dignitaries to the Monarch

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia ordered the arrest of a local newspaper columnist who was accused of blasphemy and offending Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), newspapers reported on Wednesday.

The King’s order followed public furor inside the Gulf kingdom over some articles written by Hamza Kashgari, considered as abusive of Islam and the Prophet.

“The Monarch today issued orders to arrest and try Kashgari for his offences against the deity and the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him),” the newspapers said, quoting a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

“The order came after many scholars, dignitaries and citizens in the kingdom sent messages to the Monarch expressing indignation at Kashgari offences.”

On Tuesday, Saudi Information minister Abdul Aziz Khowja was reported as telling all local newspapers and magazine not to carry any article by Kashgari for what he described as persistent offences against Islam.

“I have instructed all newspapers and magazines in the kingdom not to allow him to write any thing and we will take legal measures against him,” he said.

“When I read his articles, I wept and got very angry to have someone in the country of the two holy shrines address our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) in this offending way,” he added without giving further details.

Newspapers said Khowja’s move came after thousands of readers and schools sent letters to the local media and online demanding Kashgari’s prosecution.

After the order, many Saudi newspapers carried a letter written by Kashgari on his Twitter page apologizing for any offence, which he said was inadvertent.

One newspaper said Kashgari has fled the Kingdom to an eastern Asian country through Jordan and the UAE. It did not specify that country.

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