A witness confirmed to Amnesty International that the flogging of Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi took place this morning after Friday prayers in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.
“The flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles.”
An eyewitness to the flogging described to Amnesty International how Raif Badawi was removed from a bus in shackles and brought to the public square in front of the mosque in the middle of a crowd.
“A crowd gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why Raif was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?” the witness said.
“A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him. Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain. The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50.”
“Raif Badawi is a prisoner of conscience; his only ‘crime’ was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion. He must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Said Boumedouha
Raif Badawi had been 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.
The full sentence of 1,000 lashes will be carried out over a period of 20 weeks.
“It is appalling that 19 weeks of flogging await Raif Badawi over the coming months. Saudi Arabia’s authorities must act immediately to halt all further floggings,” said Said Boumedouha.