Raif Badawi: Saudi Arabian blogger spared lashing amid global scrutiny

Amnesty International said lashings were postponed for a third week

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger whose punishment has been condemned around the world, was spared another round of flogging today amid speculation that the international attention on his case is having an effect.

Mr Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, administered at a rate of 50 per week, for criticising Saudi Arabia’s clerics through his liberal website. However, he has not been flogged since the first punishment was carried out on 9 January.

The human rights group Amnesty International, which is campaigning for the 31-year-old’s release, said that his weekly lashings had been postponed for the third time in a row. The reason for the temporary reprieve remained unclear last night.

 

Previously Mr Badawi’s punishments have been postponed on the advice of doctors, but it is understood that he has not been medically examined since last week – giving freedom-of-speech campaigners hope that the new delay comes as a result of their actions.

“Though we don’t yet know why this week’s lashes were called off, we do know that this ordeal is having a terrible toll on Raif and his long-suffering family,” said Kate Allen, Amnesty’s UK director. “The Saudi authorities need to end this whole sadistic process and definitively announce that Raif will not be subjected to any more lashings and indeed that he’ll be freed from his 10-year jail sentence.”

The group has criticised the British Government for “wearing the Saudi muzzle” over the issue to protect its relationship with the oil-rich kingdom. Yesterday it called on Simon Collis, the new UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to “prioritise” Mr Badawi’s case.

“The UK Government needs to do more to encourage the Saudi government to do the right thing on this case, and we’re asking our new ambassador in Riyadh to ensure that Raif’s case is at the top of his in-tray,” Ms Allen said.

The charity Freedom from Torture has said Mr Badawi is likely to suffer permanent physical and psychological damage if lashings continue.

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