One year after Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail, Amnesty International has joined with his wife to renew appeals for his immediate and unconditional release.
“It is truly tragic that a whole year has passed since Raif Badawi received this cruel and unjust sentence. He is clearly being punished for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
“It is not enough for the Saudi Arabian authorities to suspend the public floggings in bid to escape international criticism and sweep Raif Badawi’s case under the carpet. As long as the sentence stands he remains unjustly imprisoned and at risk of flogging, casting a further stain on Saudi Arabia’s already bleak human rights record. It is high time his conviction is quashed and for the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.”
Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of her husband has issued an impassioned plea to the Saudi Arabian authorities for his release.
“A year ago you sentenced my husband to 10 years in jail and 1000 lashes. Four months ago you flogged him in public as if he was a nasty criminal. Expressing one’s opinion is not a crime, I urge King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to release my husband immediately and end his suffering,” said Ensaf Haidar.
“I am extremely grateful for the international support for my husband’s case which I believe has helped save him from further lashings, but the truth is, this achievement alone is not enough. Raif is still languishing in prison, each day not knowing what tomorrow will bring. It’s time for him to be free and to be reunited with his family once more.”
Amnesty International is urging the international community and in particular Saudi Arabia’s western allies to press the authorities to release Raif Badawi and dozens of other prisoners of conscience who remain unjustly imprisoned in the Kingdom’s jails.
On 9 January 2015, Raif Badawi received 50 lashes after Friday prayers in a public square in Jeddah, prompting an international outcry. For two subsequent weeks his flogging was called off based on medical advice. He has not been flogged since, and the authorities have not disclosed the reasons why. He remains at risk.
Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals by Jeddah’s criminal court on 7 May 2014 for setting up an online forum for public debate. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and a global campaign has been initiated to call for his release, gathering the support of tens of thousands of people worldwide.