DoubleSpeakOn The Huffington Post

How the Huffington Post Helped Save a Life

January 28th, 2009 by Peter Slutsky

Cross-posted at the Huffington Post

Back in May of last year, I came across a story that no one was talking about. Over the years, we’ve all heard accounts overseas about prisoners being held without due process, or the use of severe and often times disturbing punishment for crimes that would barely get you a slap on the wrist in America. It’s upsetting whenever you hear it, and this story was not unlike those that we have heard in the past, except for the fact that the press was not writing the story of Sabri Bogday.

The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), a group that operates as an education and charitable organization aimed at promoting Turkish causes, arts and people, brought this story to the forefront and as the facts of this case were detailed, the reality of what this man was facing became and more and more upsetting. Here’s the quick synopsis:

Sabri Bogday, a Turkish national, was sentenced to death by a Saudi court on March 31, 2008 for allegedly cursing the name of God in his barber shop during an argument with a client. Reportedly, Bogday was not represented by a lawyer in court and did not have access to a translator. He denied the charges, but the Court ruled that Bogday committed a crime of apostasy, defection from Islam, under Saudi laws and regarded the testimony by the Saudi client and an Egyptian neighbor as sufficient evidence for the death sentence. The Mekka appeals court upheld the lower court sentence on May 1. Until December of 2008 Bogday was held in prison facing imminent execution, and his only hope was to receive a pardon from the King of Saudi Arabia. Bogday has 2 year old child and lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for over 11 years.

When this situation first surfaced, the only English language reference I could find to it was from the Human Rights Watch website, where they posted a press release calling for Bogday’s release. No international news service, no U.S. journalist, no bloggers for that matter were writing about the story for an English audience.

So, I took to the Huffington Post and wrote a piece about Sabri Bogday and the situation he faced. I asked readers of Huffington Post to reach out to reporters, bloggers and others to help tell this story. I, along with some friends, pitched the post out to reporters who cover international affairs and I circulated the story around political circles here in Washington, D.C.

As a result, a few outlets did pick up on the story — specifically the Los Angeles Times and United Press International and eventually the story got some traction.

In November of last year, I received a press release from TCA announcing that Bogday received a pardon from execution in Saudi Arabia and that his release from a Saudi prison was imminent.

Yesterday, World Bulletin posted this story: Turkish man in S Arabia returning to Turkey after pardon to their website. Here’s the text:

A Turkish citizen who was sentenced to capital punishment in Saudi Arabia but released later, is returning to Turkey.

The Turkish Embassy in Riyadh said on Monday that Sabri Bogday would return to Turkey by the first plane from Jeddah to Istanbul.

Bogday was released after a court in Jeddah accepted his repentance early in January.

Bogday was arrested after a quarrel with a neighbor in 2007 and sentenced to beheading on May 1, 2008 on charges of “swearing at the God and the Prophet”.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held telephone conversations with King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and asked the King to pardon him.

While this story is unique, it’s not uncommon. Throughout the world, there are Sabri Bogday’s sitting in dark prisons, awaiting uncertain fates and at the mercy of a justice system that lacks justice and due process.

I have no way of knowing for sure whether or not this story could have ended up differently had it not been for TCA, the Huffington Post and the response from readers, but I do know that the power of grassroots journalism and blogs as a platform to spread news that is missed by the mainstream media is a powerful tool in our arsenal of spreading fairness and in some cases, freedom throughout the world. We never know when our action will make a difference, but in this case, I believe the Huffington Post may have had a hand in saving a life.

How the Huffington Post Helped Save a Life

January 28th, 2009 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
Back in May of last year, I came across a story that no one was talking about. Over the years, we've all heard accounts overseas about prisoners being held without due process, or the use of severe and often times disturbing punishment for crimes that would barely get you a slap on the wrist in America. It's upsetting whenever you hear it, and this story was not unlike those that we have heard in the past, except for the fact that the press was not writing the story of Sabri Bogday.

The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), a group that operates as an education and charitable organization aimed at promoting Turkish causes, arts and people, brought this story to the forefront and as the facts of this case were detailed, the reality of what this man was facing became and more and more upsetting. Here's the quick synopsis:
Sabri Bogday, a Turkish national, was sentenced to death by a Saudi court on March 31, 2008 for allegedly cursing the name of God in his barber shop during an argument with a client. Reportedly, Bogday was not represented by a lawyer in court and did not have access to a translator. He denied the charges, but the Court ruled that Bogday committed a crime of apostasy, defection from Islam, under Saudi laws and regarded the testimony by the Saudi client and an Egyptian neighbor as sufficient evidence for the death sentence. The Mekka appeals court upheld the lower court sentence on May 1. Until December of 2008 Bogday was held in prison facing imminent execution, and his only hope was to receive a pardon from the King of Saudi Arabia. Bogday has 2 year old child and lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for over 11 years.


When this situation first surfaced, the only English language reference I could find to it was from the Human Rights Watch website, where they posted a press release calling for Bogday's release. No international news service, no U.S. journalist, no bloggers for that matter were writing about the story for an English audience.

So, I took to the Huffington Post and wrote a piece about Sabri Bogday and the situation he faced. I asked readers of Huffington Post to reach out to reporters, bloggers and others to help tell this story. I, along with some friends, pitched the post out to reporters who cover international affairs and I circulated the story around political circles here in Washington, D.C.

As a result, a few outlets did pick up on the story -- specifically the Los Angeles Times and United Press International and eventually the story got some traction.

In November of last year, I received a press release from TCA announcing that Bogday received a pardon from execution in Saudi Arabia and that his release from a Saudi prison was imminent.

Yesterday, World Bulletin posted this story: Turkish man in S Arabia returning to Turkey after pardon to their website. Here's the text:

A Turkish citizen who was sentenced to capital punishment in Saudi Arabia but released later, is returning to Turkey.

The Turkish Embassy in Riyadh said on Monday that Sabri Bogday would return to Turkey by the first plane from Jeddah to Istanbul.

Bogday was released after a court in Jeddah accepted his repentance early in January.

Bogday was arrested after a quarrel with a neighbor in 2007 and sentenced to beheading on May 1, 2008 on charges of "swearing at the God and the Prophet".

Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held telephone conversations with King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and asked the King to pardon him.


While this story is unique, it's not uncommon. Throughout the world, there are Sabri Bogday's sitting in dark prisons, awaiting uncertain fates and at the mercy of a justice system that lacks justice and due process.

I have no way of knowing for sure whether or not this story could have ended up differently had it not been for TCA, the Huffington Post and the response from readers, but I do know that the power of grassroots journalism and blogs as a platform to spread news that is missed by the mainstream media is a powerful tool in our arsenal of spreading fairness and in some cases, freedom throughout the world. We never know when our action will make a difference, but in this case, I believe the Huffington Post may have had a hand in saving a life.

-Peter Slutsky

Exclusive>> Possible Obama Running Mate Gov. Tim Kaine On McCain

July 29th, 2008 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia woke up this morning to a new reality. He is, as reported by the Washington Post, on the short list to be Sen. Barack Obama's running mate. Kaine's monthly radio appearance to discuss local issues pre-scheduled for today on WTOP radio in Washington, DC, was cast in different, higher intensity light. Kaine was joined by his colleagues DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. It was quite a scene with a catered buffet (which included an omelet station) and a throng of reporters waiting to get an answer to the question of the day: will Kaine be Obama's Vice-Presidential pick? Listen to the entire audio piece here: Here are images from the studio: Governor Kaine, Governor O'Malley and Mayor Fenty Tim Kaine and the Slutsky Bros. Kaine Meeting The Press Outside WTOP Immediately following the radio broadcast, we were able to get a few minutes with the Governor and ask a number of questions about his personal reaction to the attention he's receiving and to get his response to Sen. McCain's recent attacks on Sen. Obama's overseas trip. Kaine on McCain's campaign: "It's just desperation. They're just looking for a handle to grab on and slow the momentum of this bus down. And, it's a different strategy every couple of days. It really has the air of desperation about it." Kaine on Vice-Presidential Speculation: "...I'm not going to make the case for myself because that's not why I've endorsed Senator Obama..." "And, it still seems unlikely to me, it's nice being mentioned. My Mom likes it, you know, but look, I got on board in February of '07 because I knew the country needed a change in direction and from a good Democratic field-- I thought the field was a good field-- he just struck as the guy who could change the direction of the nation. I'm just so gratified by the way the campaign has been run and the chance we have nationally but also in Virginia." "It's a little surreal. It's surreal to be mentioned and again it's nice to be considered but I know there's a lot of folks they're looking at-- there's a lot of different skills and attributes that they have to weigh-- personal, geographic, political -- a whole series of things. But, you know, I have grown to have tremendous confidence in Barack's judgment, in the judgment of his team, in very hard moments along the campaign, you know, I've kind of been with him when things were going well and not so well but they've always, in a cool and deliberate way, made a good judgment, and I have no doubt that the pick they make is going to be a strong one." For more images click here. All Photos Snapped by Kate Sokolov. 2008-06-12-otb_coverage3.gif By: Matthew and Peter Slutsky

VIDEO: 2008: Web Video Odyssey

July 2nd, 2008 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
When all is said and done in primary season 2008, what will people remember? Will it be the fist bumps, shots of whiskey and endless number of debates? Will it be the carefully crafted policy positions or gas tax holidays? We say no. As we move from one season into another, it's now clear that the age of internet video content is upon us. We've seen it all: Snowmen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an Obama girl and a long and very awkward series of videos from former Senator Mike Gravel. These unique videos have garnered significant news attention and have helped to shape the debate over the course of the cycle. Today, PoliticsTV and the DoubleSpeak team launched this compilation entitled: " 2008: Web Video Odyssey." We scoured the internet to find the best videos so far this election cycle and here they are. Hope you enjoy. If we missed any, please feel free to contact us and we'll be sure to include it in the next edition of Web Video Odyssey. By: Matthew and Peter Slutsky

Barber Insults Islam, Receives Saudi Death Sentence

May 27th, 2008 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
I have never blogged about a story like this before. I usually stick to U.S. politics, but I came across an outrageous developing situation; this is a story that I feel needs telling.

The only information that I can find, in English, comes from Human Rights Watch so I will quote their release throughout the post. The circumstances surrounding this ugly situation involve a barber, a blogger, and a pending death sentence in Saudi Arabia. I am hoping the Huffington Post community will help take action and bring much needed attention to these barbaric events taking place on the other side of the world.

Here is the story, as I understand it: Recently, a Turkish-born barber, living in Saudi Arabia received the death sentence. What was his crime you ask? Someone overheard him saying something that might have been insulting to Islam.

Bogday, a Turkish national who had worked in Jeddah for 11 years as a barber, allegedly insulted God during an argument with a Saudi client and an Egyptian neighbor. Bogday, who did not have a lawyer in court, denied cursing God, but the three judges of the lower court regarded the testimony by the Saudi and the Egyptian witnesses as sufficient proof that Bogday had committed the crime of apostasy, or defection from Islam.


What's worse, a "web critic", or blogger as we would call him, is now involved in the situation and he faces a five-year prison sentence and a 3 million riyal, (US-$800,000), fine for "setting up an electronic site that insults Islam."

On May 5, the prosecution service in Jeddah charged Ra'if Badawi with "setting up an electronic site that insults Islam," and referred the case to court, asking for a five-year prison sentence and a 3 million riyal (US$800,000) fine. Unknown persons have hacked Badawi's website multiple times, and have published his phone numbers, work address, and a threat on the hacked site: "Oh you retard, you are in the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him. Underline 'Muhammad' with a thousand lines before a thousand swords are put above your neck!" Prosecutors have not investigated the hackers or the death threats against Badawi.


So far only Human Rights Watch has taken up Bogday's cause. On May 13, the organization issued a press release condemning Bogday's sentence and called for the case to be overturned. There have been indications that the Turkish government is requesting Bogday's release, but there has been no official report.

This situation is completely nuts and no reporters are stepping up to the plate to tell this man's story. The tenets of international law regarding the freedom of expression require the release of both Bogday and the Saudi blogger who reported the incident.

Remember that last year a case involving a Saudi woman who was gang-raped and sentenced to 200 lashes drew immense international criticism. This scrutiny from both the U.S. and international press resulted in the Saudi courts overturning her sentence. We know that when the press makes noise and public opinion sways, people's lives are saved.

This case, and cases like it, have occurred and will continue to occur as long as international voices remain silent. I am not a human rights expert nor am I someone who seeks to expose the many cases that happen around the world. I am, instead, someone who stumbled upon this case and felt the need to shine a light on it.

My sincere hope is that others will see this story and decide to report further on the circumstances of this situation. It is clear that we require more information to determine the facts, but it is certain that, in doing so, time is of the essence.

UPDATE: The press is finally catching on. Congrats to the Huff Post community for helping to push this story.

Saudi law may lead to Turk's beheading [Los Angeles Times]
Saudi barber faces beheading for cursing [United Press International]


-Peter Slutsky

The Only Way Out For Dems? A Superdelegate Primary

March 20th, 2008 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
Democrats are balancing on a live wire and after the primaries are finished need to take decisive and immediate action to ensure the nomination battle does not make it all the way to Denver. That, surely, would cost us the general election in November.

I am writing today in strong support of a plan I've been reading about for the past week to end this primary process with transparency and fairness. If you haven't already done so please check out my recent appearance on MSNBC (here comes the plug!) where I argued this prolonged primary process is good for Democrats and especially good for Obama. I want to see him tough and tested in the primary so he can be ready to stand against the crap that McCain will have coming in the general. If Clinton only managed to throw the kitchen sink, McCain and his doofi will surely throw the sink, cabinets, bathroom fixtures and the family minivan.

So, how does this all end neatly?

Phil Bredesen, the current Governor of Tennessee, has proposed a plan to hold a superdelegate primary immediately following the final party primaries in Montana and South Dakota on June 3, 2008. The plan, which Bredesen outlined in a recent New York Times editorial, makes sense because it brings closure to the process and pressures superdelegates to act swiftly in casting their votes.

Here is some more from Bredesen and the New York Times:

"Here's what our party should do: schedule a superdelegate primary. In early June, after the final primaries, the Democratic National Committee should call together our superdelegates in a public caucus.

Of the 795 superdelegates, over 40 percent have not announced which candidate they are supporting; I'm one of them. While it would be comfortable for me to delay making a decision until the convention, the reality is that I'll have all the information I reasonably need in June, and so will my colleagues across the country.

There will have been more than 20 debates, and more than 28 million Americans will have made their choices and voted. Any remaining uncertainty in our nominee will then lie with the superdelegates, and it will be time for us to make our choices and get on with the business of electing a president.

This is not a proposal for a mini-convention with all the attendant hoopla and sideshows. It is a call for a tight, two-day business-like gathering, whose rules would be devised by the national committee, of the leaders of our party from all over America to resolve a serious problem. There would be a final opportunity for the candidates to make their arguments to these delegates, and then one transparent vote.

This is our electoral process at work in a way the founders would be proud of.

The formal nomination itself obviously awaits the Denver convention. However, if most of the superdelegates were to come to the table in June, there could be a clear conclusion, and enormous moral pressure on the candidates to accept the result and move on.

Some might raise reasonable concerns about the cost and logistics of assembling these superdelegates. But those would be manageable; this is a business meeting of a few hundred people almost three months from now, not an extended, cast-of-thousands convention.

Possibly the nominee will become clear by June and such a gathering will no longer be needed. That's fine: it can be canceled or turned into more of a formality. The chance to have our nominee clearly identified in June as opposed to late August far outweighs any logistical or financial concerns."


Much ado been made about the rules that govern the Democrats' nominating process. The angst that been expressed from many people comes from the feeling that, after all of the campaigning and votes cast, there would be a chance that superdelegates could make a decision that would seemingly overturn the "will of the people."

My biggest concern is that with over three months between the final primaries and Denver, all parties will have too much time to meddle, court and lure the uncommitted superdelegates and as a result we could end with a stalemate or worse- a result that is seen by many as tainted.

The superdelegates have had over a year to study the campaigns and analyze each of the candidacies. After the Montana and South Dakota results are reported and the campaigning officially ends, the ball moves squarely into their courts and they must immediately get off the fence and pledge their support.

We all know there is a lot at stake in the coming weeks. Without a superdelegate primary, I fear we stand a good chance of squandering an opportunity to win this election and change the direction of our country. However, worse than losing an election, we stand to lose the trust of millions of voters from around the country and that will prove fatal for the future of our great party.

-Matthew Slutsky

Check out OffTheBus's Superdelegate Investigation to read superdelegate profiles and interviews.

Smiles and Frowns From Obama Election Night HQ

January 8th, 2008 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
DoubleSpeak at S. Nashau High School covering the NH election results from the Barack Obama Election Night party. Highs and lows out in the gymnasium. Photos by Cameron Hickey

Joe Scarborough Makes His Predictions for New Hampshire

January 8th, 2008 by Peter Slutsky

We just did a brief interview with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of the MSNBC’s morning show, “Morning Joe.” We got an up-close look at their playful (flirtatious???) banter and got to ask them both a few questions about the race.

Ever the politician- Scarborough ducked away as Mika answered a question to talk to Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein. Such is life in the press room.

Election Day Photos in Manchester New Hampshire

January 8th, 2008 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
Photos from Manchester and voting in the 6th Ward:







Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Manchester, NH: Where Snowmen Come To Die…

January 8th, 2008 by Matthew and Peter Slutsky
For those of you tuning into The Huffington Post's ongoing coverage of the New Hampshire primary, we have to say, it's an exciting day. Media luminaries, as well as prominent political figures are roaming the halls of the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester. TV crews and campaign advance staff are frantically setting up for this evenings events and voters eagerly wait outside in the driveway, hoping with baited breathe to catch a glimpse of their candidate or favorite TV anchor. And folks, it feels like spring! The weather is 65 F. Everyone is happy, except of course the snowmen. We forget, is global warming real? By: Matthew and Peter Slutsky