KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) -- Malaysia on Sunday deported a young Saudi journalist wanted in his home country over a Twitter post about the Prophet Mohammed, defying pleas from human rights group who said he faced execution.
Hamza Kashgari, who was detained in Malaysia on Thursday after fleeing Saudi Arabia, has now left the country, national police spokesman Ramli Yoosuf said.
"He was deported to Saudi Arabia," Ramli told AFP. A government offical said Kashgari was escorted back to his home country by Saudi officials.
"He has been deported. He was picked up by Saudi officials at the airport,"
said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kashgari fled to Muslim-majority Malaysia after making comments on the microblogging site deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, which triggered outrage and death threats.
Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by execution in Saudi Arabia.
Kashgari's detention sparked outrage from human rights groups, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urging Malaysia not to send him back to face severe punishment and possibly a death sentence.
Malaysian rights activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri condemned the move, saying that a court order to prevent Kashgari's deportation was secured Sunday but that immigration authorities advised he had already been deported.
"It is a blatant violation of the law and human rights," she said.
Fadiah said Kashgari's mother and brother had arrived in Malaysia to seek his release and were distraught at the news of his repatriation.
"They are very distressed. They broke down in tears. They fear for his safety," she said, adding that they will also return to Saudi Arabia Sunday.
Fadiah said Kashgari had been intending to travel to New Zealand where he planned to seek asylum. He flew to Malaysia via Jordan and was in transit when he was detained.
"He flew to Malaysia because there was no visa requirement," she said.
Malaysia and Saudi Arabia do not have a formal extradition treaty but have close ties as fellow Muslim countries.
The home ministry defended its stance earlier Sunday.
"Malaysia has a long-standing arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other, and (Kashgari) will be repatriated under this arrangement," it said in a statement.
"The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities."
Human Rights Watch senior Middle East researcher Christoph Wilcke had said Saturday that Malaysia should not be "complicit in sealing Kashgari's fate by sending him back", where he would be unlikely to face a fair trial.
Kashgari's controversial tweet sparked tens of thousands of responses, according to an online service that tracks Twitter postings in the Arab world.
He 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."
Kashgari apologised but a committee of top clerics branded him "an "infidel" and demanded he be tried in an Islamic court, while a Saudi Facebook page calling for his execution has attracted thousands of followers.
'모하메드 언급' 사우디 트위터 처형 위기
트위터에 이슬람교의 예언자 모하메드에 대해 언급했다가 처형 위기에 몰려 말레이시아로 도피했던 사우디아라비아 기자가 국제인권 단체의 호소에도 불구하고 12일(현지시간) 본국으로 강제 추방됐다.
말레이시아 경찰 당국은 지난 9일 현지 국제공항에서 체포된 함자 카쉬가리가 "사우디로 강제 추방됐다"고 밝혔다. 익명을 요구한 한 관리는 그가 사우디 관리들에 의해 본국으로 인도됐다고 전했다.
카쉬가리는 최근 모하메드 탄생일에 트위터에 "나는 당신에 대해 좋아하고 당신 에 대해 싫어하기도 하며 당신에 대해 이해할 수 없는 것이 많다. 당신을 위해 기도 하지 않겠다"는 글을 올렸다가 배교자로 몰리자 말레이시아로 도피했었다.
그러나 무슬림이 다수인 말레이시아의 경찰은 그를 이슬람과 예언자 모하메드를 모욕한 죄로 체포했다.
이슬람교에서 예언자를 모독하는 것은 불경죄로 간주되며 사형까지 될 수 있는 범죄이다.
말레이시아와 사우디는 범죄인 인도조약을 체결하지 않았지만 같은 이슬람 국가로서 긴밀한 유대관계를 유지하고 있다.
앞서 국제앰네스티 등 국제 인권단체들은 카쉬가리가 혹독한 처벌을 받을 수 있 다며 본국으로 송환하지 말 것을 말레이시아 당국에 촉구했었다.