Wife says hoping Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to be released soon
The family of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi says they expect him to be released soon, as the end of his 10-year sentence for advocating an end to religious influence on public life in Saudi Arabia approaches.
Having become a symbol for freedom of expression, the now 38-year-old could be freed as early as Monday, his wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their children, suggested to AFP - though no date has yet been given by Riyadh.
"Like us, he counted the days, the weeks, the months, the years (to mark the end of his sentence)," she said. "But he has no exact date, no details, no news."
Ottawa declined to comment on when Badawi could be released, but said it remains "extremely preoccupied" by his case and has frequently asked Saudi Arabia to grant him clemency.
The winner of the Reporters Without Borders prize for press freedom was arrested and detained in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on charges of "insulting Islam," and at the end of 2014 was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Haidar fled to Canada, while continuing to press for her husband's release. She lives with their three children in Sherbrooke, east of Montreal.
In an interview with AFP, she described having maintained contact with Badawi in prison, talking with him by telephone "up to three times a week."
"It was not easy for me, the only choices I had: to be positive, not to sit idly by, to knock on all doors for the release of Raif," she said.
She added that she was heartened by a swell of support from "everywhere" that helped her feel as though she was "not alone" in the fight for his freedom.
Every Friday for almost seven years, Haidar has held a public vigil for Badawi. Last Friday's marked the 374th and -- she hoped -- possibly the last, held in the middle of a Canadian blizzard.
"I hope one day to live normally with my children and my husband," she says.
Colette Lelievre of Amnesty International, however, noted that Badawi faces a 10-year travel ban following his release that could prevent his reuniting with his wife and children in Canada for a period.