Saudi blogger lashed in public for "insulting Islam"

Saudi blogger lashed in public for "insulting Islam"
Eyewitnesses say Saudi blogger Raef Badawi was flogged in public Friday despite international calls to halt the sentence which Amnesty International described as 'vicious', 'cruel' and contrary to international law.
2 min read
09 January, 2015
Some 14,000 people have signed an online petition in support of Badawi. [AFP]

Saudi blogger Raef Badawi was flogged in public Friday near a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, receiving 50 lashes for "insulting Islam", witnesses said.

In September, a Saudi court upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for Badawi.

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi Arabian riyals (about US$266,600) last year for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam.

In strongly worded statement Rights group, Amnesty International called on Saudi Arabia to immediately halt the flogging.

“The news that Raif Badawi’s flogging will start tomorrow is shocking. The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately halt all plans to carry out this brutal sentence. Flogging and other forms of corporal punishment are prohibited under international law, which prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International. 

“It is horrifying to think that such a vicious and cruel punishment should be imposed on someone who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.” 

Amnesty International considers Raif Badawi a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his sentence to be quashed and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally. 

US ‘greatly concerned’

The United States had earlier appealed to Saudi Arabia to annul the sentence.  

"We are greatly concerned about reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of 1,000 lashes in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.   

She said the US was calling on "Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment" and to review his case.  

Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, fled to Canada with their three children and has been updating Reporters Without Borders about her husband's plight.  

"Although Saudi Arabia condemned.....[the] cowardly attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, it is now preparing to inflict the most barbaric punishment on a citizen who just used his freedom of expression and information, the same freedom that cost the French journalists their lives," Reporters Without Borders program director Lucie Morillon said.

Some 14,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Saudi's King Abdullah to pardon Badawi and stop what the watchdog called "a medieval form of torture."