Saudi supreme court up­holds jail, lashes for blog­ger

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Saudi Ara­bia’s supreme court has up­held a sen­tence of 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes against blog­ger Raif Badawi on charges of in­sult­ing Is­lam, his wife said on Sun­day.

The judg­ment came de­spite world­wide out­rage over his case and crit­i­cism from the United Na­tions, United States, the Euro­pean Union, Canada and oth­ers.

“This is a fi­nal de­ci­sion that is ir­rev­o­ca­ble,” En­saf Haidar told AFP in a tele­phone in­ter­view from Canada. “This de­ci­sion has shocked me.”

Badawi re­ceived the first 50 of the 1,000 lashes he was sen­tenced to out­side a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jed­dah on Jan. 9. Subse- quent rounds of pun­ish­ment were post­poned on med­i­cal grounds.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional slammed the “ab­hor­rent” de­ci­sion to up­hold a “cruel and un­just sen­tence,” de­scrib­ing it as a “dark day for free­dom of ex­pres­sion.”

“Blog­ging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is be­ing pun­ished merely for dar­ing to ex­er­cise his right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Mid­dle East and North Africa direc­tor.

Badawi’s wife ex­pressed fear that the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the flog­ging sen­tence “might re­sume next week.”

“I was op­ti­mistic that the ad­vent of (the Mus­lim fast­ing month of) Ra­madan and the ar­rival of a new king would bring a par­don for the pris­on­ers of con­science, in­clud­ing my hus­band,” she said.

Badawi co-founded the Saudi Lib­eral Net­work In­ter­net dis­cus­sion group.

He was ar­rested in June 2012 un­der cy­ber-crime pro­vi­sions, and a judge or­dered the web­site shut af­ter it crit­i­cized Saudi Ara­bia’s no­to­ri­ous re­li­gious po­lice.

The co-founder of the on­line venue, Suad al-Sham­mari, was re­leased from jail in Fe­bru­ary. But Badawi’s lawyer, Walid Abulkhair, who is also a rights ac­tivist, re­main be­hind bars.

Badawi and Abulkhair have been nom­i­nated for this year’s No­bel Peace Prize by Nor­we­gian mem­ber of par­lia­ment Karin An­der­sen.

His sup­port­ers have launched a cam­paign on Twit­ter us­ing the hash­tag #back­lash that has gath­ered mo­men­tum, and posted pic­tures of peo­ple with lashes drawn on their backs with red lip­stick.

Saudi Ara­bia in early March dis­missed crit­i­cism of its flog­ging of Badawi and “strongly de­nounced the me­dia cam­paign around the case.”

In his first let­ter from pri­son pub­lished by the Ger­man weekly Der Spiegel in March, Badawi wrote how he “mirac­u­lously sur­vived 50 lashes.”

Badawi, 31, re­called that he was “sur­rounded by a cheer­ing crowd who cried in­ces­santly ‘Al­lahu Ak­bar’ ( God is great­est)” dur­ing the whip­ping.

“All this cruel suf­fer­ing hap­pened to me be­cause I ex­pressed my opin­ion,” Badawi wrote.

Badawi’s wife and their three chil­dren have re­ceived asy­lum in Que­bec, in Canada.

Que­bec’s Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Kath­leen Weil said in March that her gov­ern­ment would “con­tinue its de­fense of Mr. Badawi,” say­ing this was a “clear case of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion.”

Saudi Ara­bia’s am­bas­sador to Canada, Naif Bin Bandir AlSu­dairy, com­plained of­fi­cially.

“The king­dom does not ac­cept any form of in­ter­fer­ence in its in­ter­nal af­fairs and re­jects... the attack on the in­de­pen­dence of its jus­tice sys­tem,” he wrote in a let­ter sent to au­thor­i­ties in Canada.

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