Saudi court upholds verdict against blogger Raif Badawi

Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment on blogger Raif Badawi, despite a foreign outcry, reports the BBC.

Speaking from Canada, his wife Ensaf Haidar told the BBC she feared his punishment would start again on Friday.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for “insulting Islam through electronic channels”. Saudi authorities sent his case for review amidst global protests, after the first round of lashes in January. For four years Badawi ran the Liberal Saudi Network, which encouraged online debate on religious and political issues.

Ms Haidar said she had held high hopes that her husband was about to be released, but he remained less optimistic. When they last spoke three days ago he told her not to expect him home in the near future. She called on the countries and rights groups that had campaigned for her husband’s release to mobilise once more.

Amnesty International activists held a protest demanding the release of blogger Raif Badawi in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Berlin on 22 May 2015

Badawi received his first 50 lashes in January, but subsequent floggings have been postponed. A shaky video taken on a mobile phone showed Badawi being lashed by a member of the security forces. The footage prompted international protests which were repeated every Friday, the scheduled day for the beatings. In March, the kingdom expressed “surprise and dismay” at international criticism over the punishment. At the time, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying it rejected interference in its internal affairs. It is not clear why Badawi has not yet endured a second round though a medical report found he was not fit for the punishment.

Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, said: “I am greatly concerned by reports that Saudi human rights activist Raif Badawi will tomorrow begin facing a punishment of 1,000 lashes, along with a 10-year prison sentence, for exercising his right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

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