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Saudi Arabia: Where jailing a blogger for his views isn't punishment enough

Saudi Arabian blogger and editor Raef Badawi
Saudi Arabian blogger and editor Raef Badawi

Free Raif Badawi/Facebook

This statement was first published on on 9 January 2015.

Just two days after issuing a condemnation of the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, the government of Saudi Arabia began carrying out a public flogging against blogger Raif Badawi, who in May was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam.

Badawi is no stranger to controversy. The 30-year-old Saudi blogger was first detained in 2008 on apostasy charges (which can carry a death sentence), before being released the next day. In 2012, he was once again arrested and charged with "setting up a website that undermines general security," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "going beyond the realm of obedience." The offending website? "Saudi Arabian Liberals," a discussion forum set up to promote debate about the role of religion in the kingdom.

Badawi is not the only Saudi facing extreme charges for his speech. His lawyer, Waleed Abu Khair, was sentenced in July to fifteen years in prison for setting up a human rights monitoring group. Abu Khair was slapped with a number of charges, including “setting up an unlicensed organization” and “breaking allegiance with the ruler.”

While Saudi Arabia is decrying terrorist attacks on the media in France, it's using its own "anti-terror" laws to convict free speech advocates. And despite its close alliance with the United States, the Saudi government has ignored US urgings and carried out the flogging. Based on the two countries' history, it's unlikely the US condemnation will have any effect whatsoever.

EFF wholeheartedly condemns both the punishment and the sentence handed to Raif Badawi and urges the government of Saudi Arabia to release both him and Waleed Abu Khair immediately.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Saudi netizen's whipping could begin Friday

    Reporters Without Borders thanks the 14,000 people who have already signed its petition for Badawi’s release and urges others to show their support by adding their signatures, so that the world does not ignore the inhuman punishment that he may be about to receive.

  • Saudi Arabia: Flogging of Raef Badawi for “founding a liberal website” goes ahead

    Mr. Badawi’s activities have been entirely peaceful. By international standards he has not done anything which would justify his imprisonment. And certainly such an extreme sentence as 1000 lashes must be considered inhuman and unacceptable.

  • Saudi Arabia punishes blogger with flogging, imprisonment

    Saudi Arabia’s arrest and conviction of Raif Badawi in 2012 for his online political activism was the kingdom’s attempt to stifle free speech and peaceful political dissent, and the court’s sentence is a flagrant violation of human rights and common decency.

  • Saudi government carries out brutal punishment against Raif Badawi

    The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information urges Arab and international organisations, particularly those concerned with free expression, to disclose the Saudi authorities' actions against the right to freedom of expression.

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