Saudi insulting tweet journalist repents

2012-02-15 19:30

Riyadh - A Saudi journalist awaiting interrogation over tweets deemed insulting to Islam's Prophet Mohammed insists that he has repented, a relative told AFP on Wednesday.

Hamza Kashgari "has affirmed to his family that he stands by his repentance, that he has made a mistake and regrets it", said the family member on condition of anonymity.

The 23-year-old fled to Malaysia after his comments sparked a wave of condemnations and threats against his life, but was deported back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Upon his return from Malaysia, Kashgari "informed his family he is in very good condition", the source said. "His family is still waiting for authorities to allow them to visit him and appoint a defence lawyer."

A Saudi lawyer told AFP on Tuesday that Kashgari "has not yet been interrogated and we hope this issue ends before it reaches the attorney general".

Saudi English-language daily Arab News reported earlier this week that Kashgari would face blasphemy charges.

On the occasion of the Muslim prophet's birthday, Kashgari tweeted: "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."

His post sparked outrage and prompted thousands to call on a Facebook page entitled "The Saudi people demand Hamza Kashgari's execution" for him to be executed. The page already has more than 23 000 members.

Forgive me

Kashgari had quickly apologised for his comments, tweeting: "I have made a mistake, and I hope Allah and all those whom I have offended will forgive me."

The European Union said on Monday that it was "deeply disappointed" that Malaysia deported Kashgari.

Kashgari was a columnist at the Jeddah-based Al-Bilad newspaper, which fired him after the controversy over his tweets.

Insulting the Mohammed is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by death in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

A committee of top clerics branded Kashgari an "infidel" and demanded his trial in an Islamic court.

Others have defended Kashgari.

Prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh tweeted: "His repentance from what he said has comforted me. I feel the sincerity of his statements and call onto my brothers to pray for him."

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