Raif Badawi: Prince Charles 'planning to raise case of blogger' during Saudi Arabia visit

Mr Badawi faces 1,000 lashes for using his blog to criticise the country's clerics

Prince Charles plans to challenge the new king of Saudi Arabia about the flogging of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, it was reported today – following an outcry against the British Establishment’s close ties with the regime.

Charles will visit Saudi Arabia on Tuesday during a closely scrutinised six-day Middle East tour, amid calls from human rights groups that he broach the topic of Mr Badawi, who faces 1,000 lashes for using his blog to criticise the country’s clerics.

Clarence House said reports in the Mail on Sunday that he would discuss Mr Badawi’s case with the new king were “speculation” but Charles has a good personal relationship with the Saudi monarchy and would be in a unique position to raise a matter that has sparked worldwide condemnation.

The campaign appears to have had an impact as Saudi authorities have not followed through on their threat to carry out 50 lashes on successive Fridays after the first public flogging in Jeddah on 9 January. Officials have cited medical reasons for delaying the punishment.


Mr Badawi, 31, a father of three, was arrested in 2012 after writing articles about politics and religion and was charged with breaking Saudi’s technology laws and insulting Islam. He was sentenced in 2013 to seven years’ imprisonment and 600 lashes, increased last year to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. He was also fined £176,000.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, said: “We don’t expect Prince Charles to give up the red carpets and state banquets and become a human-rights campaigner but, as a man who knows the Middle East well, we hope that he will use this visit to pass on a few well-chosen words to his royal hosts. We still need the UK Government to do more on Raif’s case, but Charles’s diplomatic intercession could help to secure this man’s freedom.”

Prince Charles meets Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on his six-day tour of the Middle East

The first leg of the Prince’s Middle East trip, where he visited a Jordanian refugee camp for tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting in Syria, coincided with a BBC interview in which he described his alarm at the radicalisation of young Britons.

“You think that the people who have come here, are born here, go to school here, would abide by those values and outlooks,” he said. “The frightening part is that people can be so radicalised, either by contact with somebody else or through the internet.”

He also spoke of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, a theme he continued in Jordan’s capital, Amman, where he criticised Isis and its “perverted and brutal misinterpretation of Islam”.

“All those who have any feeling have watched in agony as people of all faiths have been persecuted and driven from their homes, tortured and killed in the most barbaric way imaginable,” he said. This will be Charles’s 12th official visit to Saudi Arabia and comes a fortnight after he travelled to the kingdom following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The death of the king sparked calls for Britain to rethink its relationship with the Saudi regime. There was disquiet at Whitehall’s instructions for flags to be lowered on public buildings across England and Wales in tribute to the late monarch.

The official itinerary for the trip – which includes visits to Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – says that Charles will meet senior members of the royal family on Tuesday. Clarence House declined to say if he would be meeting King Salman, or whether the topic of Mr Badawi would be raised. “It is pure speculation if it is what he will talk about,” said a spokeswoman.

The trip has come under close scrutiny after the publication of a book that claims Charles has made clear to ministers that he no longer wishes to be used to peddle arms in the Arab world.

The book also suggested that he was seeking a greater campaigning when he finally takes over as monarch.