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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > SAUDI ARABIA, FREE RAIF BADAWI



Tuesday 24 February 2015, by siawi3



Amnesty International
Raif Badawi was flogged in public 50 times this month. He has 950 lashes and nearly a decade in prison left to serve - simply for blogging about free speech.

Raif iI call upon Dr. Walid bin Mohammad bin Saleh Al-Samaani to
Stop flogging Raif Badawi
• Release Raif immediately: he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for exercising his right to free speech
• Overturn Raif’s conviction and drop all sentences against him.
s due to be publicly flogged 50 times every week after Friday prayers until he has been lashed 1,000 times. Ask Saudi authorities to halt the barbaric punishment and to free this prisoner of conscience

‘He is in a lot of pain’
‘Raif told me he is in a lot of pain. He said that when he was being flogged he took the pain silently and rose above it, so that history will know that he did not react to their punishment. His health is poor and he cannot take another round of lashes’
Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi’s wife

Just after Friday prayers on 9 January, Raif Badawi was led by Saudi officials out of a bus and into the middle of the square in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah. A large crowd had gathered to see the flogging.

Raif stood in the middle of the crowd, handcuffed and shackled by his ankles, his face uncovered. A security officer approached Raif and began caning him across the back and legs, until he had been beaten 50 times. A witness told us it took just five minutes to cane Raif 50 times; the lashes were constant and quick.

‘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.’


Lashes temporarily postponed - to let Raif heal enough to suffer again
On 21 January, two days before he was due to be publicly lashed another 50 times in a Jeddah square, doctors deemed Raif too unwell to be flogged. The week before, the authorities had postponed his scheduled 50 lashes after a prison doctor advised that Raif was unfit to be lashed, and that the flogging should be postponed for a week on medical grounds.

While medics have advised for the second week running that Raif should not be flogged, it is not yet clear whether the Saudi authorities intend to act on this advice and refrain from flogging Raif on 23 January.

Risk to Raif’s health too great

A medical committee of around eight doctors carried out a series of tests on Raif on 21 January at a Jeddah hospital, and found that wounds sustained from the 50 lashes dealt to him by Saudi officials nearly a fortnight before hadn’t healed enough for him to be lashed again without serious risk to Raif’s health.

The fact that Raif is still seriously injured from 50 lashes shows the severity of the tortuous punishment – and yet the Saudi authorities plan to lash him another 950 times. If doctors have advised that Raif, who is diabetic as well as clearly in pain, is unfit to be lashed after one week of lashing, how will his health fare after 19 more weeks of such punishment?

The fact that medics are advising Raif’s wounds heal before the authorities resume reopening them by publicly flogging Raif again and again is abhorrent.

50 lashes every Friday

Raif awaits 950 more lashes. He will be publicly flogged 50 times every week, after Friday prayers.
Raif is not a criminal – he is a prisoner of conscience who called for free speech on his website. His treatment by authorities in Saudi Arabia has been nothing short of a vicious act of cruelty. Ask them to release Raif now.

A decade in prison for supporting free speech

Raif’s sentence stems from his creation of the website ‘Saudi Arabian Liberials’, which he envisaged as a forum for political and social debate. He was subsequently charged for content he had posted to the site, including an article published on Valentine’s Day 2012 in which he was accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s religious police, the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – as well as failing to remove ‘offensive’ posts by other contributors.

Raif was arrested in June 2012. In May 2014 he was found guilty of breaking Saudi Arabia’s strict technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures by creating and managing an online forum.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a fine of 1 million Saudi Riyal (over a quarter of a million US dollars), and prevented from using any kind of media or travelling until 2034.

Prisoner of conscience

Raif simply championed free speech. This is not a crime; Saudi authorities must release him immediately on these grounds.

We are asking Saudi Arabia to quash Raif’s conviction and overturn his unjust prison sentence, fine, media and travel ban – and stop flogging him immediately. Flogging is a barbaric medieval ‘punishment’ that constitutes torture – there is never justification for its use.

Around the world, Amnesty sections are taking action on behalf of Raif. The number of signatures displayed on this page reflects signatures gathered by Amnesty globally, not just in the UK.