Raif Badawi: David Cameron to be urged to help free jailed Saudi blogger

Campaigners will petition Britain to withdraw its ambassador in Riyadh

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The Independent Online

Campaigners fighting for the release of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi will petition David Cameron and Parliament on Tuesday, urging Britain to withdraw its ambassador in Riyadh unless there is an “immediate and unconditional” release of Mr Badawi.

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for criticising senior religious figures in his liberal blog. The first 50 lashes were administered in January but the rest were delayed after it was judged he had not recovered from the first flogging.

Earlier this month the Saudi Supreme Court upheld his sentence and Mr Badawi’s supporters fear he could face the remaining 950 lashes.

The ruling has attracted widespread condemnation. The petition warns that if “nothing is done to stop the brutality, beheadings and floggings” in Saudi Arabia “then any moral stand taken against similar horrors committed elsewhere by Isis can only be compromised.”

It questions why Britain cannot do more to promote human rights in a country with extensive and lucrative business ties with the UK and calls for the UK to stop supplying arms to the Kingdom.

The Downing Street petition, to mark the third anniversary of Mr Badawi’s jailing, also calls for the release of his lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abu al-Khair, and other human rights activists.

 

The protest, organised by groups including Free Raif UK, English Pen, Index on Censorship, One Law for All and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, also calls for international sanctions against key figures in the Saudi regime.

Peter Tatchell said last night: “Raif Badawi is a human rights hero. He’s been jailed for expressing liberal opinions. His incarceration violates international human rights statutes that guarantee freedom of expression.

“The UK Government should cease its support for a Saudi state that persecutes its own people.”

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