Raif Badawi: Saudi King 'refers case to Supreme Court', says blogger's wife

Amnesty International called the flogging which Badawi faces "macabre and outrageous"

The King of Saudi Arabia is to refer the case of blogger and activist Raif Badawi's to the Supreme Court, his wife has told BBC News.

His wife Ensaf Haidar - who is living in Canada with their three children - said the decision has given him hope that the authorities want to withdraw his punshiment, following an international outcry.

Her comments come after Saudi authorities postponed Badawi's second round of public flogging for a week, citing medical reasons, according to a leading human rights group Amnesty International, the Associated Press reported.

In May last year, authorities sentenced Badawi, 31, to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes after he used his liberal blog to criticise Saudi Arabia's powerful clerics. The Jiddah Criminal Court also ordered he pay a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (£175,700).  

He set up the Liberal Saudi Network website in 2008, to encourage debate on religious and political matters.

Both the US State Department and the UN high commissioner for human rights have called on authorities in Saudi Arabia to cancel the punishment.

Last Friday, Mr Badawi's was flogged in public for the first time, before dozens of people in the Red Sea city of Jiddah. The father of three was taken to a public square, whipped on his back and legs, and taken back to prison.

Rights groups and activists believe his case is part of a wider clampdown on dissent in the kingdom.

Amnesty International said authorities delayed administering 50 lashings to Raif Badawi, set to take place today after midday prayers, because his wounds from last week's flogging had not yet healed properly and he would not be able to withstand another round.

Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme said the postponement exposes the "utter brutality" of the punishment, and its "outrageous inhumanity."

"The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous. Flogging should not be carried out under any circumstances," said

"Flogging is prohibited under international law along with other forms of corporal punishment. His flogging appears to have been postponed for now but there is no way of knowing whether Saudi Arabia’s authorities will fully comply with the doctor’s advice. Raif Badawi is still at immediate risk," he added.

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