THE Saudi high school teacher Muhammad Al-Harbi, who was sentenced to three years in jail and 750 lashes for mocking religion on Nov. 12, has had all charges dropped against him after King Abdullah intervened.
“He has been pardoned. He was going to be pardoned from the beginning,” a Saudi security advisor told me today in a phone interview.
This news comes as 50 heads of Islamic states, including Abdullah, are meeting in Makkah at the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Abdullah already pardoned three leading reformists and their lawyer earlier in the year, as well as Professor Hamza Al-Mizeini who was sentenced to a jail term for allegedly defaming a colleague in a newspaper article, and this will only serve to further consolidate his reputation as the reformist king of Saudi Arabia.
The problem is that many people are asking why does it always take the intervention of the king to get justice, when in fact Saudi courts and judges are the ones that should be throwing these cases out themselves in the first place.
An interesting fact: Al-Harbi’s lawyer is Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, the same man who defended the three reformists in court and who was himself jailed in late 2004. Al-Lahem was himself pardoned by King Abdullah last August. Strange but true!