In the past week, Hamza Kashgari’s name has come to the forefront of the Twittersphere in a way that he probably never thought imaginable. The Saudi journalist left Saudi Arabia last week, fearing for his life, when a series of tweets he posted were deemed blasphemous.
Making his way to New Zealand, by way of Malaysia, the 23-year-old Saudi Arabian found himself arrested and deported back to Saudi Arabia despite a global outcry, and an injunction against his repatriation.
Since his return to Saudi Arabia, the story has continued to make headlines, most significantly when the Saudi Arabian public prosecutor reportedly stated that anyone who expressed support for Kashgari’s point of view could face the same fate. In Saudi Arabia, blasphemy is punishable by death.
Today The Telegraph reports that Kashgari has announced his ‘repentance’ to his family. Although he has not been able to see them since his return, a relative confirmed the news to the newspaper saying that he “has affirmed to his family that he stands by his repentance, that he has made a mistake and regrets it.”
Before fleeing Saudi Arabia, Kasghari had long since deleted the tweets and repeatedly apologised for the statements he had made, but for most of his critics, the apology was considered insufficient, with a Facebook page created calling for his execution not long after the story erupted.
In the meantime, it is unclear what awaits Kashgari, who was detained upon his return to Saudi Arabia, where he has yet to be questioned. It is also not clear whether his repentance will be enough to spare him the death sentence.
Lawyers for Liberty, who fought to stop Kashgari’s deportation from Malaysia have also stated that the Saudi journalist’s deportation from Malaysia was unlawful, as there is no immigration record of his departure from the country.