Raif Badawi's legal troubles started shortly after he started the Free Saudi Liberals website in 2008.

Story highlights

Activist's wife had been hoping for a new court to reduce the sentence

Raif Badawi has been in prison since June 2012

Apostasy carries a death sentence in Saudi Arabia

Human rights groups say government is trying to intimidate activists

CNN  — 

A judge in Saudi Arabia has recommended that imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi go before a high court on a charge of apostasy, which would carry the death penalty upon conviction, according to Badawi’s wife.

Ensaf Haidar initially told CNN on Wednesday that her husband had been sentenced to death. She later clarified to CNN that a judge has recommended he be tried for denouncing Islam, or apostasy. Apostasy carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International.

In July, a Jeddah criminal court found Badawi, who has been in prison since June 2012, guilty of insulting Islam through his Free Saudi Liberals website and in television comments.

Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. His lawyer appealed the decision.

Badawi’s legal troubles started shortly after he started the Free Saudi Liberals website in 2008. He was detained for one day and questioned about the site. Some clerics even branded him an unbeliever and apostate.

Human rights groups accuse Saudi authorities of targeting activists through the courts and travel bans. Amnesty International has said Badawi’s “is clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives.”

CNN could not reach Saudi Arabian government officials for comment.

Badawi’s wife and the couple’s three children now live in Lebanon.

Rights group: Saudi activists calling for change face harassment, jail