Interpol accused after Saudi Arabia arrests journalist over Muhammad tweet

Saudi Arabia is reported to have used Interpol's "red notice" system to locate and arrest journalist Hamza Kashgari, 23, (image at left) over tweets perceived as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad.

The international police organization denies involvement.

On the day observed as the Prophet's birthday, Kashgari published three tweets that described an imaginary meeting with the Prophet.

The one that caused all the hysteria (including "arrest him!" campaigns on Facebook and Twitter):

"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."

[translation via AFP].

Kashgari later apologized, removed the tweets, then fled the country as calls for his arrest grew.

More from the Guardian:

Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport "following a request made to us by Interpol" the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities. Interpol later denied that its notice system had been involved in the arrest of Kashgari.

A spokesperson said: "The assertion that Saudi Arabia used Interpol's system in this case is wholly misleading and erroneous."

Kashgari's tweets are said to be blasphemy, and blasphemy is punishable by execution in Saudi Arabia.

More at the WSJ, and NYT. The Daily Beast has been reporting on the story, and they spoke to a friend of Kashgari's who witnessed the detention at Kuala Lumpur airport. The Wikipedia entry for Kashgari includes a pretty thorough and reliable account of the affair (it looks good at the time of this blog post, anyway).

As an aside: Kashgari's Twitter account appears to have been deleted or otherwise closed. But, wonder how Twitter's new country-based censorship system would have played out in this case? I'm not aware that Saudi Arabia asked Twitter to remove the blasphemous content, and the point's probably moot since Twitter does not, at least not to my knowledge, have offices there.

In the strange YouTube video embedded below (which is currently nearing a million views), the Saudi cleric Nasser al-Omar demands between outbursts of tears that Kashgari be put on trial for insults to Allah and the Prophet Mohammad.

(screengrab of Hamza Kashgari's now-deleted-tweets via The Daily Beast)