Saudi Arabian blogger will be flogged, every week for the next 19 weeks

Photo: #FreeRaif campaign ad by Amnesty International (2015)

It’s been a startling fortnight for anyone that blogs, writes, doodles or puts pen (and pencil!) to power.

This afternoon, inhumane and degrading punishment was scheduled to be carried out on blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia and subsequently will continue to be carried out every Friday for the next 19 weeks, as the world watched the bloody denouement of the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish supermarket jihadi killings last week in Paris.

Raif’s prison doctor recommended delaying the second lot of 50 lashes because initial wounds have not healed to withstand any more today.

The Guardian had earlier reported on the blogger’s detainment and punishment:

“Badawi’s punishment is part of a wider campaign against domestic dissent. His lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last July because of criticism of human rights abuses.”

Today’s Human Rights Watch Daily Brief unpacks today’s developments further:

“The surprise news comes after very strong condemnation from the global public this week and appeals from some top-level officials, like UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. However, many western political leaders haven’t seemed to share that sentiment, instead backing their ally, oil provider and arms buyer by refusing to condemn the act.”

The Irish government has subsequently come under pressure to take a stand with the flogged writer following Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s symbolic appearance at the Paris rally for freedom of speech earlier this week.

Amnesty International, who adopted Raif as a prisoner of conscious, has accused the British government of “wearing the Saudi muzzle” because of its oil, business and strategic interests in the conservative kingdom.

Amnesty Ireland presents the case:

“Amnesty International has been informed that Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger and prisoner of conscience, was publicly flogged on 9 January. Flogging violates the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in international law. He will be flogged every week for the next 20 weeks, 1000 lashes in all.

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.

Amnesty International received information that Raif Badawi will be flogged after the Friday prayers on 9 January in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah. The flogging is to be carried out in public. Raif Badawi was sentenced by the Criminal Court in Jeddah on 7 May 2014 to 10-years in prison and 1,000 lashes, followed by a 10-year travel ban, a ban on using media outlets, and a fine of one million Saudi Arabian riyals (about US$266,600). The conviction and sentence stemmed from Raif Badawi’s creation of the Saudi Arabian Liberals website (which the court ordered to be closed) and the accusation that he had “insulted Islam”. The Court of Appeal in Jeddah upheld the sentence on 1 September.

According to the final court decision, Raif Badawi will be receiving no more than 50 lashes per session, with a break of no less than a week between sessions. Raif Badawi was initially charged with “apostasy”, a crime that carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. He has been detained since 17 June 2012 in a prison in Briman, in Jeddah. His lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, is himself in prison, serving a 15-year sentence for his peaceful activism.”

A selection of short extracts from Raif Badawi’s blogs on political Islam, religious clerics, liberalism and the Arab Spring can be found on The Guardian.

To join the Amnesty action network and call for his immediate release visit