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EU 'disappointed' by Malaysia deportation of Saudi blogger

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union on Monday condemned Malaysia's decision to deport a Saudi journalist back to Saudi Arabia to face charges of blasphemy for comments deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed.

Hamza Kashgari, 23, did not appear to have been given access to a lawyer or offered the possibility to appeal his deportation "in accordance with international standards," an EU spokeswoman said.

"We were deeply disappointed to learn that the Malaysian authorities had deported Mr Kashgari," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The EU also voiced regret that the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was not granted accesss to Kashghari in order to assess his situation and his potential status as an asylum seeker.

"The EU will continue taking all appropriate steps to achieve a positive outcome of Mr Kashgari's case," Kocijancic said.

The blogger was arrested on Sunday after arriving at the international airport in Riyadh, according to the English-language daily Arab News.

Kashgari, who worked for local daily Al Bilad in Jeddah, was detained in Malaysia last week after fleeing Saudi Arabia in fear of his life after his Twitter post about the prophet sparked outrage.

Insulting the Prophet Mohammed is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by execution in deeply conservative Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups had warned that deporting Kashgari would be akin to a death sentence and urged Muslim-majority Malaysia to free him.

Referring to the prophet, Kashgari had 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."

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