Saudi court shuts down liberal forum
Forum founder Raif Badawi is already purging a seven-year sentence for violating Islamic teachings and criticising prominent religious figures. Meanwhile, King Abdullah continues to push for reforms to the country's legal system and greater transparency in sentencing.

Jeddah (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A court in Jeddah has ordered a liberal internet forum shut down permanently for publishing what it described as anti-Islamic material.

The court's decision comes less than nine months after the editor of the Free Saudi Liberals website, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for setting up a forum that violated Islamic values.

International human rights groups and activists inside Saudi Arabia reacted to the decision saying that the kingdom's authorities are seeking to curb domestic political, religious and social dissent. The government denies there is a crackdown.

A number of Saudi news websites attributed the Jeddah court's ruling due to "the subjects and comments that had been published in the past in violation of the teachings of the religion (Islam) and which had stirred controversy."

Back in July, Saudi media reported that Badawi, who was arrested in June 2012, was convicted for setting up an internet forum that violated Islamic values and propagated liberal thought.

His website had included articles that were critical of senior religious figures like the Grand Mufti.

In recent years, Saudi King Abdullah has pushed for reforms to the legal system, including improved training for judges and the introduction of precedent to standardise verdicts and make courts more transparent.

Saudi Arabia strictly adheres to the Wahhabi school of Islam and applies Sharia (Islamic law).

Judges traditionally base their decisions on their own interpretation of religious law rather than on a written legal code or on precedent.